2017 Progress Report: Maternal and Developmental Risks from Environmental and Social Stressors (MADRES) Center for Environmental Health Disparities

EPA Grant Number: R836158
Center: Maternal and Developmental Risks from Environmental and Social Stressors
Center Director: Gilliland, Frank D.
Title: Maternal and Developmental Risks from Environmental and Social Stressors (MADRES) Center for Environmental Health Disparities
Investigators: Gilliland, Frank D. , Bastain, Theresa Frilund , Cockburn, Myles G , Dunton, Genevieve Frilund , Hricko, Andrea M. , Van Doren Breton, Carrie
Institution: University of Southern California
EPA Project Officer: Callan, Richard
Project Period: July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2020
Project Period Covered by this Report: July 1, 2016 through June 30,2017
Project Amount: $1,500,000
RFA: NIH/EPA Centers of Excellence on Environmental Health Disparities Research (2015) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Health


The primary goal of the Administrative Core of the MADRES Center for Environmental Health Disparities (“MADRES Center”) is to provide an efficient infrastructure coordinating and facilitating activities across the Center and to promote scientific integration and community engagement with the ultimate goal of achieving health and environmental equity. The overarching goal of the Core is to ensure multidisciplinary interactions among clinical, social and public health scientists and community outreach faculty and staff to enhance a world-class research and outreach program in environmental health disparities.

  1. Coordinate a program of research that integrates state-of-the-art exposure assessment with innovative health effects research to achieve rapid advances in understanding the impacts of prenatal and postnatal environmental and social stress on infant growth, gestational weight gain and maternal weight retention in an urban, environmentally- and health-disparate population.
    1. Provide access to a rich institutional scientific environment including complementary centers and an administrative infrastructure.
    2. Facilitate scientific synergy within and outside the MADRES Center.
  2. Facilitate the translation and application of research findings and community engagement activities to help identify scientific and outreach opportunities for enhancing translation of Center research findings to communities, clinicians and policymakers.
  3. Provide fiscal management oversight and reporting and coordinate interactions with NIEHS and EPA.
  4. Foster the career development of junior investigators into independent contributors to environmental health disparities research.
    1. Coordinate a robust career development program in collaboration with complementary centers at USC to promote the progress of the Career Development Investigator to research independence.
    2. Facilitate mock peer review of grant applications, review of presentation skills, networking with other investigators within the USC research community and beyond.
    3. Provide opportunities for community engagement and to develop non-technical presentations to communicate scientific research findings to lay audiences.
  5. Make important contributions to national networks that foster communication, innovation, and research excellence in the area of environmental health disparities.

    1. Contribute to conference calls and annual program meetings.

    2. Develop collaborations with other Centers of Excellence in Environmental Health Disparities.

    3. Participate in national working groups including the Environmental Public Health Network, and of other groups, to present the MADRES Center’s most recent research findings on environmental health disparities.

Progress Summary:

For AIM 1, recruitment of our pregnancy cohort that supports both projects 1 and 2 of the Center is well underway. Regular administrative efforts include coordination of a weekly team meeting and a monthly executive committee meeting, at which we discuss current progress and trouble shooting of any problems. All project and community engagement core (CEC) PIs attend this meeting, including the MPIs, project PIs, the Career Development investigator, and several PIs from our NIEHS environmental health sciences center and our Children’s Environmental Health Center. Therefore, we have natural cross-talk among our three Centers, creating a rich scientific environmental and opportunity for synergistic idea-sharing and advice. Lastly, we have invited external advisors to our first External Advisory Committee meeting which occurred on April 25th 2016, and held our second EAC meeting on March 10, 2017, to solicit feedback on directions and progress to date. Our third EAC meeting is scheduled for April 27, 2018. The EAC members include: Carmen Marsit from Dartmouth, Patrick Ryan from Cincinnati, Brenda Eskenazi from Berkeley, Francine Laden from Harvard (and PI of another EHD Center), Pathik Wadhwa from UC Irvine, and Barbara Baquero from Iowa.

For AIM 2, the CEC held its second community advisory board meeting in the Fall of 2017. At this meeting, the board discussed retention strategies for participants and the possible ways to communicate research results to community members. The CEC also wrapped up its focus groups of women with children under the age of 3 in our target communities to understand the level of environmental health literacy, and is in the process of summarizing those results. In addition, Cal state LA interns continue to work with the CEC to conduct 1hour community workshops on topics related to environmental health, which have been received quite well. These workshops have also been conducted at Eisner Medical clinic (one of our recruitment sites) to patients that attend the clinic as well as to the staff. The CEC led a community symposium entitled “Parks, Pollution and Obesity” in Los Angeles County in collaboration with six local community organizations and the USC School of Architecture which occurred on April 17th, 2017. With over 200 people in attendance, this event examined the intersectionality between parks, pollution and obesity bringing together community organizations, urban designers, scientists and policymakers to advance a solution-oriented conversation around land-use strategies that maximize the benefits of physical activity and minimize potential exposures to air pollution and other chemicals.

For AIM 3, a key task of the Core leadership and staff is responsibility for fiscal management/reporting and for coordinating interactions and reports with NIEHS/EPA. The ADMINISTRATIVE CORE continues to administer all financial aspects of the Center, purchasing, reimbursement, and progress and other reports to NIEHS and EPA.

For AIM 4, Career Development Trainee Progress: Dr. Toledo-Corral continues to gain valuable experience and is on the path of becoming an independent investigator in environmental health disparities research. As outlined in her career development plan, this year Dr. Toledo-Corral has focused on the following:

  1. on-going work with the Population Core to develop written protocols for data collection, support recruitment and follow-up efforts, and manage the data cleaning and processing protocols specific to the 24-hour diet recall method and cortisol measures.

  2. leading internship program for California State University, Los Angeles (CalStateLA) students.

  3. development of writing projects, manuscripts, and grants

  4. attending and participating in seminars, retreats, career development workshops, and conferences.

Training in cohort recruitment, retention and follow-up and protocol development. Dr. Toledo-Corral has continued working closely with the Population Core and aids in developing written protocols for data collection, surveys in both English and Spanish, and leads quality assurance efforts for dietary data (using the ASA24 method) and cortisol measures. Specifically, she spends time training staff and trouble shooting problems related to the ASA24 program or with data extraction. Dr. Toledo-Corral continues to oversee the staff members that currently administer the ASA-24 and reviews the quality of the dietary data. In addition, she leads data cleaning efforts and development of finalized diet variables to be used for analytical purposes.

Leading leadership program for CalStateLA students. As part of her transition to independence, Dr. Toledo-Corral has been leading efforts in developing an environmental health-focused leadership training program for students in the Public Health department at CalStateLA. In the second year of this program, we have had a total of ten student interns who aid the MADRES staff members on participant visits and also provide aid in participant retention efforts under the guidance of our community recruitment coordinator. Other intern projects have varied and include components such as: community-based education modules on environmental toxins, participation in environmental health fairs and conferences, development of research survey tools, data entry and processing of data.

Writing projects/manuscripts and grant writing. Dr. Toledo-Corral’s defined role in each of the projects and cores involves expertise in health disparities associated with obesity and metabolic outcomes. She has been actively publishing and producing written works, including a book chapter on the influence of ethnicity on risk factors of childhood obesity. Additionally, her work in the environmental health field has progressed as well, which includes analyzing data in other populations where the results have implications related to the MADRES aims.

  • Environmental Health Research Pilot Project Grant:

    • Dr. Toledo-Corral, along with Dr. Tanya Alderete, was awarded $50,000 to recruit 40 pregnant Hispanic women and infants from the MADRES cohort with the purpose of characterizing relationships between non-roadway air pollution (NRAP) exposure and the gut microbiome during the pre-natal and infancy periods, two critical windows of development. Outcomes from this study have the potential to demonstrate meaningful relationships between NRAP exposure and the gut microbiome, possibly explaining associations between air pollutants, low birth weight, and future risk for childhood obesity.

Career Development Activities. As part of our career development training program, Dr. Toledo-Corral is present 1-2 days of her week at USC and partakes in career development workshops, attends bi-weekly seminars, and partakes in any additional opportunities available for our young investigators. On a monthly basis, she attends the executive meetings and annually, she presents progress at the external advisory committee meetings. In November 2017, she attended and presented work at the Obesity Week National Meeting and Scientific Sessions on her analysis on ambient air pollution and its association with cortisol level in pre-pubertal children. In December 2017, she also presented her work involving the internship program at the National meeting for the Environmental Health Disparities centers in Albuquerue, NM. The presentation was profiled in the NIEHS Partnerships for Enviromental Public Health newsletter in January 2018. See: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/translational/peph/currentissue/lists/1_18/index.cfm

Progress towards tenure at home university (CalStateLA). Dr. Toledo-Corral is currently in her fourth year on a six-year time line towards tenure. In her most recent review, her home Department Chair, the College Dean, and the Vice-Provost have uninamously recommended her for an early tenure review in her fifth year, which is one year ahead of a traditional schedule.

For AIM 5, we have participated in the monthly EHD calls, presenting on our plan for our Center. Francine Laden serves as an EAC member to our Center, which will provide crosstalk between the Centers. We are also working with other Centers on a joint publication to profile the 5 Centers and highlight their unique strengths as well as common ground, and to provide a more diverse reference population for the US. In the Fall of 2017, Dr. Shohreh Farzan participated in an EHD themed symposium at the ISES conference with other Center members and gave a talk on metals exposures across cohorts. Lastly eight MADRES investigators attended the 2nd Annual EHD Center Meeting in New Mexico, including our CDI investigator.

Future Activities:

The Administrative Core is functioning well. In the coming year the executive committee will continue to meet, and activities of the CEC core (described in CEC report) will be supported. The Core will provide fiscal management and reporting. Administrative Core and other Center investigators will continue to contribute to inter-Center meetings and inter-center collaboration. In sum, in the next reporting period, the admin core will continue all efforts aimed at supporting recruitment and retention of the pregnancy cohort. This additionally includes synthesizing and integrating advice from the EAC into daily operations.

We propose to change the contact PI to Dr. Carrie Breton. There will be no change or impact to the project. Dr. Breton will be responsible for direct communications with and for submitting all necessary administrative documents to NIEHS/EPA, including annual progress reports. Drs. Breton and Gilliland will have joint responsibility for facilitating scientific programmatic interactions with NIEHS/EPA. Otherwise, the MPI Leadership Plan remains the same.

We had proposed to enroll 250 pregnant women in each of years 1-3. In the first year, the project period was only 9 months and delays in obtaining institutional IRB approvals as well as instrument development delayed our ability to begin study recruitment. While we have worked hard to “catch up” and have three sites for recruitment, we will still be enrolling women into the cohort throughout Year 4.

Journal Articles: 1 Displayed | Download in RIS Format

Other center views: All 2 publications 1 publications in selected types All 1 journal articles
Type Citation Sub Project Document Sources
Journal Article Alderete TL, Song AY, Bastain T, Habre R, Toledo-Corral CM, Salam MT, Lurmann F, Gilliland FD, Breton CV. Prenatal traffic-related air pollution exposures, cord blood adipokines and infant weight. Pediatric Obesity 2018:13(6):348-356. R836158 (2017)
R836158 (2018)
R835441 (2018)
  • Abstract from PubMed
  • Full-text: Wiley-Full Text PDF
  • Abstract: Wiley-Abstract
  • Progress and Final Reports:

    Original Abstract
  • 2016 Progress Report
  • 2018 Progress Report
  • Subprojects under this Center: (EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).
    R836158C001 Cumulative prenatal and infant environmental exposures and early childhood obesity risk
    R836158C002 Environmental Exposures, Stress, and Maternal Pregnancy-Related Weight Outcomes