New York, NY (January 7, 2008) – The Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH) at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, has received a $10.4 million grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to study environmental contributors to childhood asthma. The grant was awarded via a new NIEHS initiative called Disease Investigation through Specialized Clinically-Oriented Ventures in Environmental Research, or DISCOVER, that is designed to integrate environmental health research with patient and population-based studies.
CCCEH’s DISCOVER grant was awarded because of groundbreaking research on the effects of early life exposure to common air pollutants the Center has performed since 1998. The new grant will advance the field of asthma research by deepening scientists’ understanding of how prenatal and early postnatal exposure to widespread contaminants in the air alters lung development and the immune system to produce asthma. In four related studies, CCCEH scientists will combine molecular, epidemiologic, experimental and clinical approaches to better prevent childhood asthma and improve clinical treatment of the disease.
CCCEH is one of the first research centers in the nation to receive a DISCOVER grant. Launched by NIEHS in 2006, the DISCOVER program has awarded grants to only three institutions nationwide: CCCEH, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Washington, Seattle.
"The DISCOVER centers will help to define the role of environmental agents in the initiation and progression of human disease and develop new ways to both prevent and treat disease," said Dennis Lang, Ph.D., interim director, NIEHS Division of Extramural Research and Training, as he announced the new awards. "The potential impact of the research that these three centers will be conducting is enormous."
Since 1998, CCCEH has conducted significant research linking early exposure to ambient air pollution from sources such as diesel and gasoline powered vehicles and power plants to children’s risk for asthma and asthma exacerbation. CCCEH’s research in New York City and internationally in Poland and China finds that in utero and postnatal exposure to particulates and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from diesel exhaust and other urban combustion sources adversely affects children’s neurocognitive development and increases potential cancer risk. The Center has also identified in utero exposure to residential pesticides as harmful to neurocognitive development.
CCCEH’s scientific research is raising public awareness, improving children’s environmental health, and influencing public policies. The Center’s award-winning Healthy Home Healthy Child campaign, developed in collaboration with WE ACT for Environmental Justice, educates inner-city families about practical ways to reduce children’s exposure to pollutants. The Center and WE ACT’s joint translation of scientific research findings to improve environmental policies helped to pass legislation that lowered New York City’s diesel exhaust emissions and neurotoxic pesticide exposure throughout public housing.
The four studies CCCEH will conduct with its DISCOVER funds are as follows:
“The CCCEH’s primary goal has always been to improve the health and development of children through investigative research,” said Dr. Frederica Perera, director of CCCEH and a pioneer in the field of molecular epidemiology. “This grant not only allows us to deepen our scientific understanding of the role of common urban air pollutants in childhood asthma, it also will help us give parents, physicians and communities the tools they need to make informed decisions to improve the health of their children.”
An estimated 23.2 million Americans suffer from asthma, almost 9 million of whom are under the age of 18. As many as 25 percent of children in certain inner city communities have asthma. Asthma is the leading chronic illness affecting children in the United States and the leading cause of school absenteeism due to chronic illness. Health care costs associated with asthma are estimated at $14.5 billion a year. The number of deaths due to asthma, the number of Americans diagnosed with asthma, and the health care costs of asthma continue to increase each year.
About the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health
The Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health – part of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University – is a leading research organization dedicated to understanding and preventing environmentally related disease in children. Founded in 1998, the Center conducts research in New York City, as well as Krakow, Poland, and Chongqing, China. Its mission is to improve the respiratory health and cognitive development of children and to reduce their cancer risk by identifying harmful environmental toxicants and conditions related to poverty. The Center collaborates with residents and partner organizations in Harlem, Washington Heights, and the South Bronx to share research findings with the local communities in ways that are meaningful and usable in daily life. (www.ccceh.org)
About the Mailman School of Public Health
The only accredited school of public health in New York City, and among the first in the nation, Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health provides instruction and research opportunities to more than 950 graduate students in pursuit of masters and doctoral degrees. Its students and more than 300 multi-disciplinary faculty engage in research and service in the city, nation, and around the world, concentrating on biostatistics, environmental health sciences, epidemiology, health policy and management, population and family health, and sociomedical sciences. www.mailman.hs.columbia.edu
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