January 13, 2017
Ken Kleinman, Associate Professor of Biostatistics within the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences, and Emily Oken, a physician and researcher with the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, have received a two-year, $1.66 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to identify environmental and behavioral targets for preventing asthma and obesity in children.
The award, which funds the team’s Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute-based research study, is among $157 million in new NIH funding being provided in support of a seven-year initiative called Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO). The ECHO program’s research focuses on factors that may influence health outcomes around the time of birth as well as into later childhood and adolescence, including upper and lower airway health and development, obesity, and brain and nervous system development. The awards are being used to build the infrastructure and capacity for the ECHO program to support multiple, synergistic longitudinal studies that extend and expand existing cohort studies of mothers and their children.
Kleinman has been appointed Co-Chair of the Data Analysis Working Group for ECHO, and now leads a team of 75 biostatisticians from around the country who are working on similar studies.
In a press release announcing the awards, ECHO Program Director Matthew W. Gillman, M.D., said, “I’m very excited to work with many of our nation’s best scientists to tackle vital unanswered questions about child health and development. I believe we have the right formula of cohorts, clinical trials and supporting resources, including a range of new tools and measures, to help figure out which factors may allow children to achieve the best health outcomes over their lifetimes.”
For the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute-based obesity and asthma prevention study, Kleinman and colleagues are using the Project Viva cohort of Boston-area women and their children. Project Viva investigators have followed mothers since early pregnancy and their children from birth through early teen years. Using state-of-the art statistical methods, the team are addressing early environmental exposures that influence obesity, asthma and other health issues. They also seek to identify effective interventions from the individual level on up to national policies to support children’s health.
“For this grant in particular, our goal is to look for shared and unique determinants of obesity and asthma as they develop over childhood,” says Kleinman. “The project contains methodologic (i.e., statistical) goals, which I am responsible for, and also data collection and scientific hypotheses, which are the domain of Dr. Oken. The methodologic core contains myself and three other statisticians whom I lead, at Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, and the Brookings Institution.”