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About the Children's Environmental Health Initiative

Mission and Vision

The Children's Environmental Health Initiative (CEHI) is a research, education, and outreach program committed to fostering environments where all people can prosper. Based at Rice University in Houston, Texas, CEHI oversees multiple environmental research projects emphasizing the special vulnerabilities of children. CEHI projects focus on incorporating innovative spatial analysis in combination with field-based sampling into children's environmental health research. CEHI maintains a deep institutional commitment to issues of social justice and thus focuses much of its work in low income and minority communities.

Although it is widely agreed that health and well-being are determined by multiple forces, surprisingly little is known about the how these forces interact to promote or prevent adverse outcomes in children. Traditional disciplinary research methods have focused separately on how components of host, social, and environmental factors affect health. These disciplinary approaches have had limited success in disentangling complex health endpoints. In order to fully address children's health outcomes, methods for addressing the simultaneous and combined influence of host, social, and environmental factors are imperative. CEHI works to develop integrated methodologies that conceive of children's health within a comprehensive framework. This conceptual design is illustrated in Figure 1. The figure depicts child well-being as the result of the forces exerted by host, social, and environmental factors on three sides of a triangle. Health disparities arise when the forces exerted by the triangle's sides are asymmetrical for different population groups.


By using spatial design of environmental health research, CEHI's long term vision is to forge a whole new approach to addressing children's environmental health issues. CEHI has developed and maintains and extends an extensive fully spatially referenced data architecture on children's environmental health. This makes it possible to jointly consider diverse variables collected by different disciplines, creating the opportunity to explore the complex and dynamic relationships among the components of health. Thus, CEHI works collaboratively across disciplines to develop sound and systematic methodologies for assessing and analyzing the causal interactions and pathways through which the environment, host, and social domains operate in a child's life.