Global Environmental Pediatrics Initiatives
Global research initiatives led by Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP, director of NYU Langone’s Division of Environmental Pediatrics, assess the effects of childhood exposure to environmental factors such as contaminants in water and air. With funding from the National Institutes of Health, our research team has led programs on four continents.
Our goals are to design initiatives that help us learn about the environments of local communities and to train local scientists to lead research studies of their own. The resulting data empower communities to convey the importance of policies that protect children from environmental hazards.
Below are a few examples of our international programs.
Lake Chapala, Mexico
Our research in Mexico aims to initiate and sustain a durable research program focusing on the impact of environmental factors on child neurodevelopment, especially with respect to mercury exposure. In partnership with researchers at the University of Guadalajara and the Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública, we provide training to local researchers in three areas: neurodevelopmental assessment methods, design of children’s environmental health research studies, and epigenetic methods.
Our overarching aim was to study the potential harm posed to child development and to empower Mexican researchers with the capacity to pursue other studies of environmental risk factors to early brain development.
The training was applied in a pilot cohort study of prenatal methylmercury exposure in subsistence fishing communities around Lake Chapala, the largest watershed in Mexico.
In collaboration with researchers at Makerere University in Uganda and at Yale University and Mount Sinai Hospital, we examine blood lead levels in children in Kampala, the nation’s capital. Even though Uganda removed lead from gasoline in 2005, the Kiteezi landfill in Kampala is a hazardous waste site that may be contaminating the nearby water supply with lead.
As a result of our study, we determined that lead poisoning remains highly prevalent among school-age children in Kampala, raising important questions about the source of lead in African communities.
To learn more about our work in Uganda, see Dr. Trasande’s paper in Environmental Health Perspectives.
Gansu Province, People’s Republic of China
Industrialization in the People’s Republic of China has accelerated economic growth, producing rapid increases in early-life exposures to outdoor air pollutants. Grave concerns exist about the impact of increased use of coal and petroleum-fueled vehicles on children’s health, including neurodevelopment, birth outcomes, respiratory illnesses, and the cardiovascular system. These concerns are especially heightened in northwest China, which has seen intense economic development in the past decade.
In partnership with researchers at the Lanzhou University School of Public Health in Gansu Province, we formed an initiative known as the GEOHealth Hub to develop a program of needs assessment, partnership and capacity building, research planning, and evaluation.
Four faculty members from NYU Langone with expertise in inhalation toxicity, neurodevelopment, and cardiovascular epidemiology collaborated with seven faculty from the Lanzhou University School of Public Health with expertise in developmental toxicology, epidemiology, and biostatistics. Together, we surveyed child health providers, policymakers, and other stakeholders to assess needs for research, translation, and capacity building. An educational conference coupled with follow-up surveys assessed changes in knowledge, attitudes, and opinions of healthcare providers, community stakeholders, and policymakers.
To learn more about our work in northwest China, see Dr. Trasande’s paper in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.