Early life exposure to changing social and physical environments has been implicated as a driving force in the increasing global prevalence of obesity and chronic disease at younger ages. However, understanding of the complex pathways linking environmental exposures to the development of health and disease across the life course has been limited by methodological difficulties in disentangling the effects of changing environments from individual, age-related vulnerability to environmental change. The proposed career development award addresses this gap, bringing together training in sophisticated demographic methods and a unique dataset, the China Health and Nutrition Study, a 20-year NIH study of >11,000 individuals in 4400 households capturing dramatic changes in diet, disease burden and lifestyles, to characterize environmental determinants of inflammation, a measure of chronic immune activation linked to the development of cardiometabolic disease. Drawing on a life course framework, this project examines the pathways linking social and physical environments to inflammation among children, adolescents and young adults through three specific aims: 1) the characterization of salient social, behavioral, biological and physical environmental predictors of inflammation across age groups and urban/rural residence, 2) the use of latent class trajectory models and age, period, cohort analysis to characterize longitudinal patterns of exposure to pathogenic and obesogenic environments, and 3) the identification of shared and unique predictors of inflammation within individual households to address age and cohort differences in vulnerability on the micro-environmental level. This award will incorporate formal training in demography, mentorship from leaders in the fields of demography and nutrition, and fieldwork in China to create innovative models more broadly applicable to questions of health in changing environments in China and globally. The institutional environments, the Carolina Population Center, UNC- Chapel Hill and Duke University, and mentoring by an inter-disciplinary team of experts, will foster the development of a new research niche linking a human biological focus on the development of chronic disease with sophisticated demographic analytic tools. This training and mentoring will provide the unique set of skills I need to make a large step forward from my background in narrower bench research and smaller-scale human biology work to become an independent population scientist with a dynamic perspective on the interplay of environment and inflammation and a capacity to make significant, interdisciplinary contributions to the study of human health and disease.

Public Health Relevance

Obesity and the biological precursors of chronic diseases are being seen at increasingly younger ages in the United States and globally, and modernizing social and physical environments have been implicated as underlying determinants. An improved understanding of the pathways linking the environment experienced during childhood, adolescence and young adulthood to the development of inflammation is critical for identifying the effects of changing environments on human health and developing successful interventions for reducing the global burden of obesity and cardiometabolic disease.

Agency
National Institute of Health (NIH)
Institute
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Type
Research Scientist Development Award - Research & Training (K01)
Project #
5K01HD071948-02
Application #
8496087
Study Section
Pediatrics Subcommittee (CHHD)
Program Officer
King, Rosalind B
Project Start
2012-06-22
Project End
2015-03-31
Budget Start
2013-04-01
Budget End
2014-03-31
Support Year
2
Fiscal Year
2013
Total Cost
$111,941
Indirect Cost
$8,292
Name
University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
Department
Social Sciences
Type
Schools of Arts and Sciences
DUNS #
608195277
City
Chapel Hill
State
NC
Country
United States
Zip Code
27599
Thompson, Amanda L; Houck, Kelly M; Adair, Linda et al. (2014) Multilevel examination of the association of urbanization with inflammation in Chinese adults. Health Place 28:177-86
Thompson, Amanda L; Houck, Kelly M; Adair, Linda et al. (2014) Pathogenic and obesogenic factors associated with inflammation in Chinese children, adolescents and adults. Am J Hum Biol 26:18-28
Thompson, Amanda L (2013) Intergenerational impact of maternal obesity and postnatal feeding practices on pediatric obesity. Nutr Rev 71 Suppl 1:S55-61