Studying environmental children's health

Leonardo Trasande, MD, explains how his studies have shown the effects of environmental factors on children's health and what can be done to drive improvement
Studying Environmental Impacts on Children's Health
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Studying environmental children's health

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It might surprise people to know that I came into the field of environmental health through public policy and not through medicine. Like many medical students, I got very little environmental health training as part of my medical school time--less than the equivalent of one open heart surgery case. My strongest interest at first was actually in health policy. I decided to get a masters in public policy with my medical degree, went through my pediatrics residency, and then decided to get additional experience working on Capitol Hill for then-Senator Clinton. It was Senator Clinton and her staff who suggested that I work specifically on environmental health issues. That is wherein my eyes opened up and the world fundamentally changed for me. I realized how much I could do across broad populations of children, through proactive policy change and directed research, to identify what are the emerging threats to children's health today in the United States. I decided to get some additional environmental health training as a fellowship. After getting a little bit of extra training focused on environmental pediatrics, I decided to continue along an academic career where I could do both research to identify the preventable causes of chronic disease in children, while doing policy-focused research to translate that knowledge, so that we can do things across a broad population of children to improve their lives.

Leonardo Trasande, MD, explains how his studies have shown the effects of environmental factors on children's health and what can be done to drive improvement

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Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP

Associate Professor, NYU School of Medicine

Dr. Leo Trasande's research focuses on identifying the role of environmental exposures in childhood obesity and cardiovascular risks, and documenting the economic costs for policy makers of failing to prevent diseases of environmental origin in children proactively. Dr. Trasande is perhaps best known for a 2012 Journal of the American Medical Association study associating Bisphenol A exposure in children and adolescents with obesity, and a 2011 study in Health Affairs which found that children's exposures to chemicals in the environment cost $76.6 billion in 2008. His analysis of the economic costs of mercury pollution played a critical role in preventing the Clear Skies Act (which would have relaxed regulations on emissions from coal-fired power plants) from becoming law. He has also published a series of studies which document increases in hospitalizations associated with childhood obesity and increases in medical expenditures associated with being obese or overweight in childhood.

These studies have been cited in the Presidential Task Force Report in Childhood Obesity, and another landmark study identified that a $2 billion annual investment in prevention would be cost-effective even if it produced small reductions in the number of children who were obese and overweight. He serves on the Executive Committee of the Council for Environmental Health of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and on the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee for the World Trade Center Health Program. He recently served on a United Nations Environment Programme Steering Committee which published a Global Outlook on Chemicals in 2013, and on the Board of Scientific Counselors for the National Center for Environmental Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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