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EPA Funds New Center to Study Children’s Health New Center at Duke University First of its Kind in the American South


EPA awarded Duke University nearly $8 million to support a 5-year study intended to improve public health. The new center at Duke University will be the first in the American South to study how social, environmental and genetic factors contribute to the recent rise in premature births and low birth weight. This grant is the largest in EPA’s history for a children’s research center.

“At EPA, 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,” said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. “Together, with partners like Duke University, EPA is helping ensure a cleaner, safer environment for our nation’s future leaders.”

“In the South, there is a unique social, economic, and demographic context in which environmental exposures play out,” said Duke’s Marie Lynn Miranda, director of the new center, and an associate research professor in the Nicholas School of Environment and Earth Sciences. "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 at Duke University 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 funded 20 research centers dedicated to improving children’s health; the Duke center is the 20th. The original 19 centers were funded in conjunction with the National Institutes of Environmental Health.


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