Pediatric Environmental Medicine Center Research

The Pediatric Environmental Medicine Center increases the understanding of environmental factors that lead to asthma.The Pediatric Environmental Medicine Center (PEMC) at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC was established with two research goals in mind: Increasing the understanding of environmental and lifestyle factors that lead to asthma and improving the health of the children who are the most susceptible.
Opened in 2007 with a grant from The Heinz Endowments, the PEMC investigates how environmental and lifestyle exposures such as vitamin D insufficiency, obesity and indoor pollutants impact childhood asthma. Future efforts will focus on developing novel treatments.

Asthma is a common health problem that has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. The greatest growth – more than 80 percent – has been among boys and girls under the age of 18. The medically underserved are the most vulnerable to this disease. This chronic respiratory disorder is linked to environmental triggers, and recent breakthroughs have identified genes that predispose some children to asthma. 

In the Greater Pittsburgh region, the prevalence of asthma is about 25 percent higher than the national average, yet the use of emergency services by children with asthma is three to four times the national average, underscoring the seriousness of the disorder. In response, the PEMC supports the region’s needs with:

  • Community outreach programs and screenings 
  • Educational presentations
  • Continuing Medical Education and training courses for healthcare providers 
  • Research on the impact of environmental and lifestyle factors on childhood asthma

    To achieve its goals, the center uses nontraditional approaches, such as healthcare delivery in the local communities via Children’s Hospital’s Ronald McDonald Care Mobile.

    The first major research undertaking by the PEMC was a pilot cohort study that followed children with asthma and identified characteristics that may make them more susceptible to the disease. Results from this study are being used as preliminary data for grant applications to study specific environmental/lifestyle exposures such as vitamin D status in greater detail.

  • Our Researchers

    Yueh-Ying Han, PhD
    Lori Holt, CRNP
    Rose Lanzo, RRT

    Michael Cabana, MD, MPH, University of California at San Francisco