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Research Grants

NIEHS/EPA CEHCs: Southern Center on Environmentally-Driven Disparities in Birth Outcomes (SCEDDBO) - University of Michigan and Duke University


Low-income and minority communities are often disproportionately affected by environmental pollutants and children in these communities can be especially vulnerable to the effects of these pollutants because they are still developing.  This center is investigating how environmental, social, and individual factors interact and jointly impact the health of newborns. Social conditions such as deteriorating housing, inadequate access to health care and high poverty can exacerbate environmental concerns like exposure to toxins. This can lead to lower birth weights and premature births, which can impede lung and other organ development. Researchers seeks to understand these factors and their influence, especially in low-income families, eventually leading to ways to prevent health problems during pregnancy and infancy.  At this center, researchers combine field studies with an extensive library of location-based data of the distribution of environmental contaminants to examine the causes and consequences of environmentally induced diseases in children.

Center Website: Southern Center on Environmentally-Driven Disparities in Birth Outcomes (SCEDDBO)

Research Projects

Project 1: Research Project A: Mapping Disparities in Birth Outcomes
Researchers are using a geographically based statistical approaches to understand whether and to what extent exposures to socioeconomic and environmental factors together contribute to racial and ethnic health disparities in infant birth outcomes. The study links birth records, death certificates, socioeconomic factors, susceptibility factors, environmental exposures, community and clinical data for the State of North Carolina to determine why some children are healthier at birth than others and the importance of these factors in a baby’s development. This project is also designed to determine how and to what extent differences in environmental and socioeconomic factors help explain health disparities in fetal growth among different ethnic and social groups.

Project 2: Research Project B: Healthy Pregnancy, Healthy Baby: Studying Racial Disparities in Birth Outcomes
The central objective of this project is to determine how the interaction of environmental, social, and host factors contributes to disparities in birth outcomes between African-American and white women in North Carolina. The project includes a cohort study of pregnant women designed to correlate birth weight, gestational age and the combination of both factors with individual measurements of environmental and societal factors and individual susceptibility to disease. Center researchers are partnering with local community groups to assess neighborhood quality and the built environment to develop community-level measures of environment and social factors. This study is designed to determine to what extent differential exposures explain health disparities by applying innovative geographic and genetic statistical modeling methods.

Project 3:Research Project C: Perinatal Environmental Exposure Disparity and Neonatal Respiratory Health
This project uses a mice to determine whether maternal exposure to airborne particulate matter (PM), ozone or a combination of both restricts fetal growth or growth after birth, and whether this exposure can impair lung development and function. This project is also designed to determine whether PM and/or ozone exposure “reprograms” the mother’s inflammatory response and to determine whether genetic or developmental susceptibility to respiratory inflammation exacerbates the effects of early exposure to PM and/or ozone on lung development and function in children.

Project 4:Community Outreach and Translation Core
The central objective of the Community Outreach and Translation Core (COTC) is to create, implement, and assess strategies to translate and apply the findings of the Southern Center on Environmentally-Driven Disparities in Birth Outcomes into relevant information for women of childbearing age, families, community groups, policy makers, and health care professionals. The COTC is conducting environmental health outreach and education directed at low income and minority women and their children; enhancing the capacity of disadvantaged communities to understand threats posed by environmental contaminants; and providing a bridge between campus research, communities and policy makers.

Project 5:Geographic Information System and Statistical Analysis Core
The overall objective of the GIS and Statistical Analysis Core is to support spatial and quantitative analysis needs of the Center research projects, as well as the Community Outreach and Translation Core.


Primary Environmental Exposures: Environmental, social and individual susceptibility factors, particulate matter (PM), ozone
Primary Health Outcomes: Disparities in birth outcomes, respiratory health in infants


Publications: (2007 - 2011)