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Your Environment. Your Health.

Understanding and Communicating Environmental Risk Factors Related to Autism

Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH)

April 24, 2019

children stting on sand

Studies indicate the rate of autism is rising, but causes are not well understood. Scientists have found rare gene changes, or mutations, as well as small common genetic variations in people with autism, implying a genetic component. A growing area of research focuses on interaction of genetic and environmental factors, which also means an increase in risk-related information. In this webinar, we heard about the state of the science in autism and challenges scientists face in communicating risk and emerging findings. We also heard about research examining maternal risk factors for autism, such as diabetes and other conditions relevant to women's health.



Craig Newschaffer, Ph.D.

Craig Newschaffer, Ph.D. is a professor of biobehavioral health and the Raymond E. and Erin Stuart Schultz Dean of the College of Health and Human Development at Pennsylvania State University. He is a fellow of the American College of Epidemiology, has received continuous federal research funding since 2000, and has served as principal investigator on numerous autism epidemiology investigations, including an NIH Autism Center of Excellence focused on prenatal autism risk factors. He has served on the U.S. DOD Autism Research Program Integration Panel, the Autism Speaks Science Advisory Board, and, on multiple occasions, the federal government’s IACC Strategic Plan for Autism Research expert review group. He was a past vice president of the International Society for Autism Research and a past associate editor of the journal Autism Research.

Anny Xiang, Ph.D.

Anny Xiang, Ph.D., is a senior research scientist and director of biostatistics research at the Department of Research and Evaluation, Kaiser Permanente - Southern California and an adjunct research associate professor at the University of Southern California’s Department of Preventive Medicine. She uses statistical methodologies to understand disease development and to conduct clinical trials in disease prevention and intervention. Over the past two decades, she has been playing a leading role in the research of gestational diabetes and its impact on mothers and their children. Her interest in environmental exposure and autism spectrum disorders stems from her recent work on assessing exposure to maternal diabetes during pregnancy and the risk of autism in children.

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