Welcome to the ECHO Connector! The Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Program is a research program at the NIH with the mission to enhance the health of children for generations to come. The ECHO Connector will keep you informed of program news and our latest research findings. Topics included in this issue are listed to the right.

Message from Matt

A Message from ECHO Director, Matthew W. Gillman, MD

March is National Nutrition Month. ECHO investigators are conducting important research on how nutrition influences child health across all five ECHO Program health outcome areas. This edition of the Connector highlights recent ECHO research in this area.

This month’s Research Spotlight features ECHO research that suggests that children’s body mass index (BMI) has decreased following implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, possibly due to increased diet quality. ECHO’s large sample size, diversity, and ability to follow kids over long periods of time means that our researchers can leverage “natural experiments” – like policy changes or the COVID-19 pandemic – to examine how they affect children. Read full message here.

ECHO Research Spotlight

ECHO Researchers Investigate the Effect of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act on the Body Mass Index of School-aged Children

Collaborative ECHO research led by Aruna Chandran, MD, MPH and Emily Knapp, PhD of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, examines how the body mass index (BMI) trends of school-aged children changed following the implementation of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA). Researchers analyzed height and weight data from over 14,000 children in the ECHO Program and found an overall decrease in BMI following the implementation of the HHFKA.

These results suggest a reversal of the pre-policy implementation trends, which indicated that BMI was not changing in the population overall, and even increasing from year to year among adolescents. This research, titled “Changes in Body Mass Index Among School-Aged Children Following Implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act,” is published in JAMA Pediatrics. Read full summary


Upcoming Workshop

NIH ECHO Return of Individual Research Results Workshop: March 16-17

ECHO will host a two-day workshop on March 16-17, 2023 to identify best practices to ethically and feasibly return individual research results to participants in large-sample studies including pregnant people and children.

Virtual attendance is open to the public. Registration is free, but required:


Workshop themes:

  • What principles drive return of individual results to pregnant people and children? What are examples of best practices and how can we evaluate their effectiveness?
  • How should recommendations differ for returning individual results to pregnant people and children versus those of other adults?
  • Most research on returning individual results focuses on genetics results; how can we broaden to include environmental data from bioassays, physical measures, and self-reports?
  • How can the workshop guide facilitation of equity in return of individual results?

Please visit the workshop registration page for more details, including speakers and agendas.

We encourage you to promote this workshop to your networks. If you have any questions, please contact Clay Mash (clay.mash@nih.gov).

ECHO Data Now Available

De-identified new and extant ECHO data is now available to the entire scientific community through the Data and Specimen Hub (DASH). DASH is a centralized resource established by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) that allows researchers to share and access de-identified data from studies via a controlled-access mechanism.

This first public-use version of ECHO-wide Cohort data covers information collected on 41,299 participants and provides a valuable resource for the scientific community. This momentous step fulfills both a key strategic goal of the ECHO Program and an obligation to U.S. taxpayers for their investment in our research.

Researchers can request access to these data by creating a DASH account and submitting a Data Request Form. The NICHD DASH Data Access Committee reviews the request and provides a response in approximately two to three weeks. Once granted access, researchers are able to use the data for up to three years. See the DASH Tutorial for more detailed information on the process

ECHO Discovery


ECHO Discovery is a monthly webinar series with educational presentations for the ECHO community, stakeholders, and the public.


Join Us for the April ECHO Discovery!

Date: Wednesday, April 12, 2023 1pm. ET

Title: Prenatal Origins of Child Neurodevelopmental Outcomes: From Exposures to Mechanisms

Presenter: Thomas G. O’Connor, PhD

Departments of Psychiatry, Psychology, Neuroscience, and Obstetrics and Gynecology

University of Rochester Medical Center, NY


Learn More and Register Here


March ECHO Discovery

Perinatal Sleep Health and Offspring Neurodevelopment

On March 8, Claudia Lugo-Candelas, PhD of the Columbia University Irving Medical Center and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, presented for ECHO Discovery on the importance of sleep during pregnancy for promoting positive child health outcomes.

Many pregnant people struggle with disrupted sleep and assume that it is a normal part of pregnancy, but there are interventions that can help pregnant people sleep better. This presentation aimed to increase awareness around the importance of sleep during pregnancy, highlighting prior research that demonstrates the relationship between prenatal sleep and birth outcomes and presenting new data that suggests prenatal sleep disruptions may increase childhood risk for neurodevelopmental conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and sleep problems.

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