201710 The Prenatal and Childhood Mechanisms of Health Disparities (Gilman, HBB)

The Division of Intramural Population Health Research (DIPHR) proposes an initiative entitled “The prenatal and childhood mechanisms of health disparities.”

This initiative addresses a critical knowledge gap in our understanding of the mechanisms that contribute to differences in early child health and development – from birth through the first year of life – based on the family’s socioeconomic status and race/ethnicity. Well documented disparities in early childhood health and development persist in part because of a gap in knowledge about the physiologic, behavioral, and environmental factors that jointly contribute to disparities which could be targeted by interventions. There is also a gap in knowledge about the critical periods during which such factors are most important, which is needed to inform developmental timing of potential interventions.  

The goal of this initiative is to investigate the developmental origins of health disparities. This will be accomplished by establishing a cohort of pregnant women that is diverse with respect to race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status and following their offspring through the first year of life. Potential mechanisms underlying disparities will be investigated across multiple domains – from biomarkers of neuroendocrine and immune physiology during pregnancy, parental health-related behaviors and mental health, to family and neighborhood environments. The unique types of assessments that will be conducted range from serial biomarkers of stress-related pathways in each trimester of gestation, structured diagnostic interviews of parental psychiatric disorders, questionnaires of daily experiences and stressful events during pregnancy, and objective measures of neighborhood environments.

This initiative aligns with the NICHD Vision areas of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease and Behavior and Cognition.

Program Contact

Steven Gilman
Health Behavior Branch

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