CRECE and PROTECT will be taking part in a new national study led by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) which aims to investigate the ways in which early exposure to a range of environmental factors influence the short- and long-term health of children.

The study is part of the NIH’s new Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes program(ECHO). Over the next seven years, ECHO will provide $157 million to top research institutions to examine the effects of a variety of environmental factors—from air pollution and chemicals to stress and diet—on the health of children and adolescents.

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

PROTECT, which launched in 2010 with funding from the NIH’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), explores the role contaminants such as phthalates play in Puerto Rico’s high rate of preterm birth. CRECE, which launched in 2015 with funding from the NIH and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), uses a subset of the children participants born in the PROTECT cohort to evaluate the impact of environmental exposures, including particulate matter and phenols, on children’s neurodevelopment.

The new study will build on the work CRECE and PROTECT have been carrying out in Puerto Rico. The teams plan on collecting data and biospecimens for 570 pairs of mothers and children who are already in the CRECE-PROTECT cohort and to recruit an additional 1100 pregnant women. Over the seven-year span of the program, CRECE and PROTECT expect to study a total of 1,560 mother-child pairs.

“I’m very excited to work with many of our nation’s best scientists to tackle vital unanswered questions about child health and development,” said ECHO program director Matthew W. Gillman. “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.”