Duke University Children’s Center Studying Environmentally Driven Disparities in Birth Outcomes is Newest Children’s Center and the First Fully Funded by EPA
(Tuesday, May 15, 2007)
EPA has awarded Duke University a $7.7 million grant to study why the number of babies born prematurely or with low birth weight are higher in the South than in other parts of the U.S. The new Southern Center on Environmentally Driven Disparities in Birth Outcomes (SCEDDBO) is the first Children’s Center in the South, and is studying how social, environmental and genetic factors contribute to the recent rise in premature births and low birth weight infants. This is the largest Children’s Center research grant in EPA’s history.
EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson made the grant announcement during a press conference on May 15th held at the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences on the Duke campus. “At EPA,” Johnson said, “we are committed to protecting human health and the environment for all our residents, including our most vulnerable citizens. By promoting children’s health research, we are working to provide a healthier start for every child born in America.”
Marie Lynn Miranda, Ph.D. is the Director of the new Center and an associate research professor in Duke’s Nicholas School. "In the South, there is a unique social, economic, and demographic context in which environmental exposures play out," Miranda said. She added, "poor birth outcomes aren't just an immediate problem -- the effects can be very long lasting. Survivors of poor birth outcomes are at increased risk for serious illnesses later in life.”
The new Center will explore how combinations of factors promote or prevent adverse birth outcomes such as low birth weight among three distinct subpopulations in North Carolina. Researchers will use data at various scales, ranging from statewide data sets to local clinical observations. Additionally, researchers will analyze these data both retrospectively (1990-2005) and prospectively (2007-2012). Another project will explore the impacts of air pollutants on fetal growth and development in mice.
Key community groups involved in the development of the center include Durham Congregations, Associations and Neighborhoods, the Durham County Health Department and the Lincoln Community Health Center. Ultimately, the center will serve as a technical and educational resource in the area of children's health.
Since 1998, EPA has awarded 20 research grants to individual Children’s Centers dedicated to improving children’s health – the grant to Duke is the 20th. The original 19 Center grants were jointly funded with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).