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CHDI launch event highlights research to "end disease where it begins"

Friday, June 8, 2018
Dean Mary Klotman

The Children’s Health & Discovery Initiative (CHDI) held a launch event on Thursday, May 31, 2018 at the Chesterfield Building in downtown Durham to highlight research into the prenatal and early life factors that influence lifelong health and well-being.

The CHDI is a multidisciplinary effort sponsored by the Department of Pediatrics and the Translating Duke Health Initiative that promotes innovative research that will positively impact childhood and lifelong health. Efforts in four key research focus areas (genes and biology, physical environment, social and economic factors, and health and behavior needs) will inform prevention, risk screening, and treatment, as well as provide training opportunities for the next generation of scientists focused on the health plasticity of early life. The goal of the CHDI is to “end disease where it begins” by identifying early life factors that contribute to the development of disease throughout an individual’s lifespan and to develop prevention, mitigation, and intervention strategies that will improve health and well-being.

The event featured remarks by Dean of the Duke University School of Medicine Mary Klotman, as well as presentations by Sallie Permar, MD, PhD, director of the CHDI, and each of the CHDI’s research focus leaders, including Kyle Walsh, PhD, associate professor of neurosurgery (genes and biology); Heather Stapleton, associate professor in the Nicholas School of the Environment (physical environment); Charlene Wong, MD, MSHP, assistant professor of pediatrics (heath & behavior needs), Beth Gifford, PhD, assistant research professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy (social & economic factors); and Ben Goldstein, PhD, assistant professor of biostatistics and bioinformatics and the leader of the CHDI data science team. These presentations highlighted ongoing research projects currently being conducted by the CHDI, including:

  • Analysis of cord blood molecular signatures of disease, assessment of the relationship between environmental exposures during pregnancy and birth outcomes;
  • Development of incentive programs for a community-based pediatric obesity treatment program;
  • Evaluation of the health system and social services interactions of children who have suffered abuse or neglect;
  • Geospatial analysis of factors that contribute to pediatric asthma exacerbations.

The event culminated with remarks from Ilina Ewen, chief of staff to the First Lady of North Carolina, and Ann Reed, MD, chair of the Department of Pediatrics. Ms. Ewen detailed initiatives in the State of North Carolina and the Office of the First Lady of North Carolina focused on the well-being of children, including foster care, child abuse and neglect, childhood hunger, and literacy. Dr. Reed closed the event, detailing the Department of Pediatrics’ commitment to supporting research that will give all children a chance for a healthy and productive life, working to end disease where it begins.


Learn more about CHDI