About the ECHO Program

Understanding the effects of environmental exposures on child health and development is a priority for the National Institutes of Health. To advance knowledge in this area, NIH has launched a new seven-year initiative called the Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) program. While the goals of ECHO are consistent with those of the former National Children’s Study, the approach is different. ECHO is designed to capitalize on existing participant populations, and support approaches that can evolve with the science and take advantage of the growing number of clinical research networks and technological advances.

ECHO will support multiple, synergistic, longitudinal studies using existing study populations, called cohorts, to investigate environmental exposures — including physical, chemical, biological, social, behavioral, natural and built environments — on child health and development. The studies will focus on four key pediatric outcomes that have a high public health impact:

  • Upper and lower airway
  • Obesity
  • Pre-, peri-, and postnatal outcomes
  • Neurodevelopment

The studies will share standardized core data elements managed by a central coordinating center and an associated data analysis center. The core elements to be addressed across all studies are:

  • Demographics
  • Typical early health and development
  • Genetic influences on early childhood health and development
  • Environmental factors
  • Patient/Person (parent and child) Reported Outcomes (PROs)

An additional, but significant, element is an IDeA States Pediatric Clinical Trials Network. This network also will leverage the existing IDeA infrastructure by embedding clinical trials experts at IDeA state locations and facilitating their partnership with other academic institutions. This national network for pediatric research could help address access gaps for rural children by leveraging the infrastructure at existing IDeA state centers.

To support ECHO and other pediatric environmental exposures research, NIH awarded $144 million in new grants in fiscal year 2015 for the development of new tools to enhance measurement of environmental exposures.