June 20, 2018


Children’s Health & Discovery Initiative

[Originally posted by Duke Dept of Pediatrics — June, 2018]


The Children’s Health & Discovery Initiative fosters multidisciplinary and innovative research that will positively impact childhood and lifelong health.

About the Initiative

For more than eight decades, the faculty and staff in the Department of Pediatrics at Duke University School of Medicine have conducted pioneering child health research, and expertly trained future pediatrician-scientists.

Now, under the umbrella of the recently launched Children’s Health & Discovery Initiative, these efforts will have an even bigger and broader impact. By bringing together pediatric physician-scientists and faculty experts from a variety of fields across the Duke campus, the new initiative will drive multidisciplinary research collaborations focused on improving children’s health and identifying pediatric origins of disease.

Research Focus Areas

The initiative will pioneer advancements in child health and well-being using data from four key research areas:

  • Genes and Biology
    An individual’s physiology is defined by the interactions of their genetic and biological make-up with a multitude of external factors. The goal of this research focus area is to define the early life genetic and biological factors that contribute to life-long health and disease outcomes and develop interventions and therapies that can ameliorate or prevent disease.
  • Physical Environment
    The physical environment, including chemical agents, climate change, nanoparticles, microbes, endocrine disrupptors, and epigenetic modifiers, has a profound impact at all levels of physiology. The goal of this research focus area is to identify environmental factors that contribute to life-long health and disease outcomes and develop interventions and therapies to improve population health.
  • Health and Behavior Needs
    From the prenatal period through the first few years of life, the brain undergoes it’s greatest period of development. Early life experiences are critical in developing a brain architecture that affects behavior, relationships, learning, and mental health over a lifetime. Elucidation of early life influences that contribute to emotional and behavoiral health will aid in the development of interventions to improve mental and physical health outcomes.
  • Social and Economic Factors
    Social and economic factors including occupation, education, income, family structure, community support, the emotional and physical health of those who live closest to us, and local resources influence all aspects of health, and these factors are particularly influential at early ages. Assessment of the social and economic factors that have lifelong impacts will identify policies and initiatives that can improve the health of all communities.

Efforts in each area will inform prevention, risk screening and treatment, as well as provide training opportunities for the next generation of pediatric physician-scientists to learn from Duke’s cadre of experts.