Environmental Health Disparities in Children: Breaking the Cycle and Building Resilience for Better Health

February 5, 2016
2:00 pm US Eastern Time

Slides & Resources

Speaker Presentation Slides

Dr. Rubin: Break the Cycle of Environmental Health Disparities in Children

Dr. Longhi: The Impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) and Resilience on Disparities in School Performance and Health Preliminary Research Results from Washington State

Additional Resources

Innovative Solutions for Disadvantage and Disability (ISDD) - Visit the website

ISDD - Break the Cycle - Visit the website

CDC: Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACEs) - Visit the website

Listen to Recording

A complex array of environmental factors can interact to affect children’s health and wellbeing. In addition to the impacts of single or multiple chemical exposures on a developing child’s body and brain, other environmental factors such as income inequality, traumatic experiences, the physical space in which a child lives (access to green space, healthy homes), access to healthcare, and educational opportunities all interact to influence a child’s health outcomes.

Additionally, adverse environmental factors can cause, exacerbate or complicate serious childhood health problems such as asthma, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma and neurodevelopmental conditions, such as learning disabilities. Unfortunately, many of these environmental factors that operate through direct and indirect mechanisms are still not clearly understood or prioritized on research agendas.

On this call Drs. Leslie Rubin and Dario Longhi discussed the impact of health disparities on children. Dr. Rubin discussed some of the research findings of the Break the Cycle Project, a collaborative, interdisciplinary pediatric environmental health research and training program that invites university students with their academic mentors to conduct research related to the reduction or prevention of environment-related illness and disability in children living in circumstances of social and economic disadvantage. Dr. Longhi then discussed his work with the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, one of the largest investigations ever conducted to assess associations between childhood maltreatment and later-life health and well-being, and his research measuring the effects of resilience-building practices in communities, particularly how reducing toxic stress in children can positively impact their health.

Featured speakers

Dr. Leslie Rubin is originally from South Africa where he trained in pediatrics and came to the United States to specialize in neonatology and then in developmental pediatrics at Case Western in Cleveland Ohio then and then was at the Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School before going to Atlanta in 1994. He is currently, Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Morehouse School of Medicine, President and Founder of the Innovative Solutions for Disadvantage and Disability (ISDD), Co-director of the Southeast Pediatric Environmental Health Unit (PEHSU) at Emory University, and Medical Director of Developmental Pediatric Specialists in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Rubin also directs the interdisciplinary Autism, Cerebral Palsy and Developmental clinics at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Hughes Spalding. In 2004 he founded the ISDD, which is dedicated to improving the lives of children who grow up in circumstances of social and economic disadvantage. His signature program is the result of a collaborative partnership between ISDD and the Southeast PEHSU called Break the Cycle of Environmental Health Disparities. This program cultivates the interest of students from a variety of disciplines at a number of universities and colleges in different states to develop research projects that will Break the Cycle. It is now in its 11th year and, to date, there have been 93 students from 27 universities in 9 States in the USA as well as students from Latin America, Europe and Africa that have resulted in 8 international journal supplements and 6 Books. The goal of this program is to cultivate future leaders to address the challenges of environmental health disparities.

Dr. Dario Longhi is a sociology researcher with long experience in measuring the effects of resilience-building practices in communities. He has served as the Research Director for the Washington State Family Policy Council, a nationally unique partnership of 42 local Public Health and Safety Network boards, 6 state agencies, 4 state legislators and the governor. He has twenty years of experience in the evaluation of the effectiveness and cost-offsets of social-health programs and prevention. He was the state evaluator for the SAMHSA funded State Incentive Grant in the State of Washington assessing the implementation and outcomes of substance abuse prevention programs in eighteen different communities. Dr. Longhi has managed a statewide database of community indicators of health and social well-being (covering a variety of child and family problems, together with relevant socio-economic and demographic characteristics) for the use of local communities.

The call was moderated by Steve Heilig, MPH, CHE Director of Public Health & Education, and Director of Public Health & Education, San Francisco Medical Society.