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NIEHS funds child health research centers

By Ed Kang
November 2010

Kimberly Gray, Ph.D.
Kimberly Gray, Ph.D., is a health scientist administrator in the NIEHS Susceptibility and Population Health Branch. She manages the pediatric epidemiology and community participatory research programs, and directs the NIEHS/EPA Centers for Children's Environmental Health and Disease Research program. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

NIEHS announced grants totaling $54 million Oct. 20, as part of a federal initiative to develop new research technologies and approaches to discover how the environment influences children's health. The program ( of university-based research centers is supported by joint funding from NIEHS and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Focusing on exposure to environmental agents, such as pesticides, metals, air pollution, and endocrine disruptors, the 12 newly-funded Centers for Children's Environmental Health and Disease Research will engage in a wide range of basic, applied, and community-based participatory research to better understand, and ultimately reduce, the burden of disease (see text box).

The program initially began in 1998 when NIEHS and EPA funded eight centers. In 2008, the two agencies asked for proposals to fund the next generation of centers. The resulting changes leverage the development of approaches utilizing cutting-edge assessment and biomonitoring tools, interaction with communities in the research process, and new disciplines such as epigenetics, which examine how exposure to chemicals and other environmental agents can cause genetic changes for several generations. Additionally, the new funding establishes formative centers, to conduct research where the link between children's health and the environment is not yet well-established, but may be stimulated by the creation of collaborative teams.

"This important research program exemplifies the federal government's commitment to our most valuable resource, our children," said Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., director of NIEHS and the National Toxicology Program. "The unique interdisciplinary nature of the centers allows them to work closely with their communities to develop effective intervention strategies for at-risk populations."

To promote collaboration and interaction, NIEHS and EPA brought staff from the 12 newly-awarded centers together with researchers from two existing programs. The meeting, which took place Oct. 18-20 in Washington, D.C., provided opportunities to share lessons learned and plan for future directions. Participants also focused on effective approaches for sharing research findings with the scientific community, parents, and the general public.

(Ed Kang is a public affairs specialist in the Office of Communications and Public Liaison and a regular contributor to the Environmental Factor.)

Centers for Children's Environmental Health and Disease Research

Children's Centers

  • Patricia Buffler, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, Center for Integrative Research on Childhood Leukemia and the Environment
  • Gregory Diette, M.D., Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore
  • Brenda Eskenazi, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, Center for Children's Environmental Health Research
  • Elaine Faustman, Ph.D., University of Washington, Seattle, Center for Child Environmental Health Risks Research
  • Frederica Perera, Dr. P.H., Columbia University, New York City, The Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health
  • David Schwartz, M.D., National Jewish Health, Denver

Formative Centers

  • Kim Boekelheide, M.D., Ph.D., Brown University, Providence, R.I.
  • Margaret Karagas, Ph.D., Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H., Children's Environmental Health & Disease Prevention Research Center
  • Karen Peterson, D.Sc., University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • Susan Schantz, Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Ira Tager, M.D., University of California, Berkeley, Center for Environmental Public Health
  • Tracey Woodruff, Ph.D., University of California, San Francisco

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