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MSU receives part of $26 million grant to research environmental influences on child health

infant swaddled on a cushions
Garrett Jackson

The National Institutes of Health are awarding $26 million in grant funding to Michigan State and two other universities to study environmental influences on children’s health.

It's part of a country-wide research program called ECHO, also known as the Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes, which examines mothers, infants and children in the U.S.

Jean Kerver is an associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at MSU.

Her team is studying factors that impact a child’s neurological development—even beyond air pollution and chemical contamination in food and water.

"But also protective things like having close family and friends and other social connections, maybe being part of sports teams, eating lots of fruits and vegetables, [having] nutrients in them that can counteract harmful contaminants like lead," Kerver said.

She said her team is looking closely at how inflammation in pregnant mothers influences neurological development in babies.

"We found some evidence in Michigan that previous infection with this common maternal infection cytomegalovirus was associated with autism symptoms in children," she said.

Kerver said she hopes her team will be able to test their hypothesis in a larger national sample over the seven years the grant is active.

MSU received the money alongside its partners in the Child Health Advances from Research with Mothers (CHARM) alliance. They include Henry Ford Health, University of Michigan, Wayne State University and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Megan Schellong is the local host and producer for Morning Edition on WKAR.
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