The Avera Research Institute Center for Pediatric and Community Research is a recipient of the largest health research grant in state history. The National Institutes of Health is awarding just over $17 million to the center’s ECHO Program.
ECHO stands for Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes. The program is part of a national effort to examine how early childhood experiences affect a child’s development of conditions like ADHD, autism, asthma and more.
The ECHO program through Avera is focusing on neurodevelopment and asthma. The research covers children ranging from ages 3 to 10 years old, and it will follow the sample group over five years.
Jyoti Angal is the Director of Clinical Research for Avera’s Pediatric and Community center. She explains that a child’s environment is more than their physical surroundings. It also includes their social and emotional experiences.
“And so our questions kind of cover the whole gambit of that. And includes questions of chemical exposures in daily life, their sleep habits, how they’re doing in school, their peer relationships, familial relationships. So kind of anything that would affect the overall child health and development," says Angal.
Researchers will also measure various chemical exposures through biological samples like blood and mucus.
Amy Elliott is the principal investigator for the ECHO program at Avera. She says they are also adding a pregnant cohort to the study in order to measure environmental impacts on children before they are even born.
“That will be about 2,000 women that we’ll be enrolling in that, both in Sioux Falls and Rapid City,” says Elliott.
Avera’s ECHO team is one of 31 to receive the NIH grant, and the only team in the Midwest.