University Communications

The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and Colorado State University have been awarded $1.2 million to participate in a National Institutes of Health initiative called Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO).

The award is part of a planned seven-year grant with an estimated total value of $15 million for the Colorado participation. The funding was awarded to the Colorado School of Public Health.

It represents a large collaborative effort among investigators at the Colorado School of Public Health at CU Anschutz and CSU, and the CU School of Medicine’s departments of pediatrics and medicine.

The ECHO program will investigate how exposure to a range of environmental factors in early development — from conception through early childhood — influences the health of children and adolescents. It is part of a $150 million NIH effort announced on Sept. 21.

PlaygroundThe Colorado study will leverage an existing and ongoing pre-birth cohort in Colorado, Healthy Start, which is currently following 1,410 mother-child pairs.

The overarching goal of the Colorado study is to determine the early life “exposome” — the entirety of environmental stressors that can impact one’s health across a lifetime. The study also aims to connect health outcomes with biological pathways that occur from the moment of birth through childhood.

“By continuing to longitudinally follow up the Colorado Healthy Start cohort and collaborating with the larger ECHO consortium, we will be able to expand the scope of our work by refining and incorporating additional components of the exposome, exploring changes in the composition and impact of the exposome over time, targeting additional childhood outcomes and participating in large gene-environment interaction studies,” said Dana Dabelea, professor of epidemiology and pediatrics and principal investigator of the Colorado ECHO project at the Colorado School of Public Health at CU Anschutz. “It is our hope that this study will advance the scientific understanding of early life contributors to child health outcomes and build a foundation for the development and evaluation of future prevention efforts.”

National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins said, “Every baby should have the best opportunity to remain healthy and thrive throughout childhood. ECHO will help us better understand the factors that contribute to optimal health in children.”