Research: Nut allergy is a potentially life-threatening health problem that is on the rise. Children spend a significant amount of time in schools, and many schools have nut-free policies, yet little is known about the impact of these policies on children?s safety and psychosocial well-being. This proposal details a five-year plan to provide Dr. Lisa Bartnikas with the training and expertise to evaluate the impact of school nut-free policies on environmental nut levels and psychosocial stress in an established cohort of inner-city children enrolled in the School Inner-City Asthma Study (SICAS) and Environmental Assessment of Sleep in Youth (EASY) study (PI, Dr. Wanda Phipatanakul). Building on our partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, we will also collect data on school policies and rates of allergic reactions. This study is unique and novel because it will be the first to evaluate the impact of school policies on allergic reactions, psychosocial distress and environmental nut protein levels. Results may lead to future clinical trials designed to prevent exposure and reduce allergic reactions and psychosocial distress. Trials to reduce the risk of allergic reactions and psychosocial distress would greatly impact society by informing school policies for children with food allergies. Candidate: Dr. Bartnikas? long-term goal is to become an independent NIH-funded investigator focused on patient-oriented research in food allergy, with the goal of developing policies that will positively impact society. This is an area of unmet need within the field of allergy. To achieve this goal, her short-term objectives are to obtain further training in clinical trial design, database design and management, biostatistics, and epidemiology, as well as practical skills in cohort building. This will be accomplished with formal classes, collaborative work, attendance at conferences, and guidance from established mentors/scientific advisors with relevant expertise. This will result in a unique combination of practical skills and scientific knowledge that will successfully position her for an R01 application and an independent career as a physician-scientist in the field of food allergy. Environment: Dr. Bartnikas will be mentored by Dr. Phipatanakul, an expert in epidemiology, clinical trials, and clinical investigation in asthma and allergic diseases. She has assembled an extraordinary team of advisors, including Drs. Christine Mrakotsky, Al Ozonoff and Scott Sicherer, who have committed their time, resources, and expertise to facilitate Dr. Bartnikas? career development and successful completion of the proposed project. During this award period, Dr. Bartnikas will obtain a Master of Public Health in Clinical Effectiveness through the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), and complete additional complementary coursework through the Harvard Catalyst Program and HSPH. The academic environment created by the mentor, institution, Harvard University and its affiliates provides a fertile ground for learning and collaborating specific to her research. Dr. Bartnikas will emerge an expert in the field of food allergy, with a unique understanding of public policies, health and psychosocial implications that will shape her into a highly successful independent investigator.
Despite the rising prevalence of nut allergies and the significant amount of time children spend in school, little is known about the impact of school nut-free policies on the safety and psychosocial well-being of children with nut allergies. The goals of this project are to determine the impact of school nut-free policies on rates of allergic reactions, environmental nut protein levels and psychosocial distress. This research will provide important information that can be used to design public policies and recommendations in schools to improve the physical and psychosocial well-being of children with food allergies.