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Children in Hawaiʻi will directly benefit from a seven-year, $157 million initiative called Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) launched by the National Institutes of Health. 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.

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s John A. Burns School of Medicine has been selected to build state-of-the art pediatric clinical research networks in rural and medically underserved areas, so that children from these communities can participate in clinical trials. The medical school will partner with the Hawaiʻi Pacific Health Research Institute and Kapiʻolani Medical Center for Women and Children and UH professor and community pediatrician May Okihiro of Waiʻanae Coast Comprehensive Health Center.

“We think this is going to transform the availability of clinical trials to benefit infants, children and adolescents with the most need in Hawaiʻi,” said Principal Investigator Bruce Shiramizu, professor of pediatrics at the school of medicine.

Three main focus areas

Initially, three main areas of emphasis for the Hawaiʻi site will be the health of infants before and after birth, obesity in children and adolescents and respiratory diseases, including asthma suffered by children and teens. Future plans will be to include clinical trials involving neurocognition. These four areas are the initial key focus areas for ECHO.

University physicians in the John A. Burns School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics, assisted by those in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health, will collaborate with their peers on a national level to develop new clinical trials that will involve the children of Hawaiʻi. The first of the clinical trials could happen within a year of the four-year grant awarded this week.

Clinical trials

When they begin, the clinical trials will be open to children and adolescents in Hawaiʻi at the greatest risk for health problems—Native Hawaiians, part-Hawaiians, other Pacific Islanders, Filipinos and other Asians as well as children and teens of low-income families and underserved communities. Few clinical trials in the past have targeted children from these ethnic backgrounds or Islands.

For more on information, read the John A. Burns School of Medicine news story.

NIH ECHO Program overview

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