Children living in circumstances of social and economic disadvantage are at greater risk for experiencing health conditions related to environmental factors. They often become trapped in the cycle of environmental health disparities because of poor and limited educational opportunities, lack of access to quality health care services and limited social and political capital.
“Break the Cycle” is an annual student/mentor program that was started in 2005 to address these health disparities. It brings the efforts among students of all disciplines focused on increasing the understanding of social and economic disparities in relation to environmental conditions and resulting health outcomes. “Break the Cycle” has grown in influence and geography, with an increasing number of student researchers participating each year. As a testament to its deep reach and inspiration, some of these students have changed their academic focus and professional goals following their participation in “Break the Cycle,” bringing to the field of children’s environmental health the numbers, passion and commitment necessary to address complex issues.
With ten Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSUs) around the United States, and a few more in other countries, each PEHSUs has developed and cultivated its own specialties, styles, collaborations, partnerships and special outreach programs; the Southeast PEHSU’s “Break the Cycle” program is one such example.
This compilation from the Southeast PEHSU in collaboration with Innovative Solutions for Disadvantage and Disability (ISDD) presents important prenatal exposure research accomplished through this “Break the Cycle” mentorship program. The compilation demonstrates the enormous breadth and interactions between social, chemical and biological issues exemplified by the need to understand how, for example, the built environment might affect birth weight, how air pollution might affect behavior or how growth and development of males is affected by exposure to brominated flame retardants. Most importantly, it reveals the vulnerability of the fetus to environmental factors and the lifelong implications on the children, their families and on society.
These are the kinds of questions that stretch our minds and give us an appreciation of science, health, society and, importantly, equity. In due course, the experiences of students and mentors in “Break the Cycle” builds a cadre of enlightened and motivated participants in the effort to promote/pursue health equity in the best environments for the children of today, tomorrow and generations to come. (Imprint: Nova)