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Penn Medicine and CHOP join forces to address environmental hazards and protect children at risk
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Penn Medicine and CHOP join forces to address environmental hazards and protect children at risk

Children in Greater Philadelphia face many environmental threats to their health. These include lead poisoning, asthma from pollution and exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals. Researchers from Penn Medicine and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), have teamed up to combat these dangers and protect children from the most vulnerable communities in the region, thanks to funding from The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

The Philadelphia Regional Center for Children’s Environmental Health, (PRCCEH), is a new children’s facility that will allow them to combine expertise from both institutions as well as colleagues from Temple University. Temple University, Temple University. Thomas Jefferson University. Lehigh University. Franklin & Marshall College. Villanova University. University of Delaware. This is the first award of funding for a Center for Children’s Environmental Health to the region.

The Penn Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology is the source of the center’s research, as well as its long-term collaborators and community partners. It has been a long-held dream to bring such an institution to the region.

Trevor Penning, PhD., CEET Director

The center’s three-fold mission is to: disseminate knowledge about children’s environment to health care providers, community members and policy makers; develop, test and put into practice new programs; and involve researchers and community partners to implement policy, practice and behavioral changes to reduce environmental exposures during early life. Directors of the center are Rebecca Simmons, MD (a professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania) and Aimin Ching, MD (a neonatologist at CHOP), as well as Marilyn Howarth, MD (director of the Community Engagement Core at CEET).

Simmons stated that the center will draw on years of research at Penn and CHOP in pediatric toxicology and environmental health to make a real and positive difference in the lives and well-being of children in the region. “We already have many existing connections within Philadelphia, Delaware, as well as other counties. This grant will enable us to strengthen these relationships.”

The center will concentrate on four main research and translation areas: Asthma Prevention, Lead Exposure and Harm Reduction, Air Pollution, and Reduced Exposure to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals. The center will expand upon the CHOP’s Community Asthma Prevention Program. (CAPP) was designed by Tyra Bryant Stevens, MD. This program has been supporting families of asthmatic children in Philadelphia for more 20 years.

CEET’s research revealed a significant gap in elevated blood lead levels for children depending on where they live. The new center will build on this research and use evidence-based methods to reduce lead poisoning among children. Past research from this group has also revealed that the Philadelphia-Reading-Camden Metropolitan Statistical Area is among the 25 worst for air pollution in the U.S., which has motivated the PRCCEH to address solutions to this dangerous health hazard. Studies at Penn, CHOP and other institutions around the world show an increase in disease burden due to endocrine disrupting chemical compounds – compounds found in household products or the environment that have been linked with preterm birth, obesity, diabetes, and neurodevelopmental disorders.

The center’s evidence-based programmatic solutions will be implemented across the region in collaboration with many community groups and nonprofits including Children First, The Chester Environmental Partnership and Women for a Healthy Environment, Clean Water Action and the Philadelphia Healthy Schools Initiative. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (1P2CES033428-01) supports this project.

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