A nationwide study will be coordinated in Sioux Falls to examine aspects of children’s health. It will determine the scope of outside influences on common conditions.

The National Institute of Health has 84 sites that are testing bio-specimens through the ECHO program (Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes) and Dr. Amy Elliot of Sanford Health is leading a committee that’s organizing the effort where every data point is crucial.

“It’s not just focused on the bio-specimens themselves, but it’s also combined with a whole lot of information that we will gather directly from families. That’s going to look at four different main outcomes that ECHO is trying to figure out what can be done to help prevent why these things happen and what puts kids at risk.

Elliot says the best researchers in the nation are looking for specific problem areas.

“Those outcomes are asthma, childhood obesity, autism, as well as the effects of prematurity. Everyone who has been selected to be part of this is an expert in one of those areas. We’ll be able to bring research to the Dakotas with national experts in each of those different topic areas.”

Factoring the health disparities for the Native population compared to the rest of South Dakota, Elliot feels there is strong potential for closing that gap through this study.

Elliot defines bio-specimens being liquids of any type from the body plus solids such as baby teeth which functions much as a tree ring to gauge a history of factors from life’s earliest stages.

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