Large scale studies of environmental influences on children’s health and development are being planned or conducted in many places, including Japan, France, Shanghai (China), the United States, and Germany. The objective of these “next generation” studies is to better understand a broad range of environmental and social factors that influence the health and well-being of children. Some of these studies are designed to enroll tens of thousands of children and follow them for many years to investigate the influence of the environment on child growth, development and health. Environment is broadly defined in these studies and includes investigation of chemical, biological, physical and socioeconomic factors. An international group composed of study teams from Japan, France, Shanghai (China), the United States, and Germany has been meeting since 2011 to exchange information and work towards harmonization of processes that would provide the opportunity to compare methods and develop procedures to conduct combined analyses of results and data pooling procedures. Harmonization of infant health outcomes, biomarkers, environmental measurements, socioeconomic and migration status has been initiated. This manuscript provides an overview of the Environment and Child Health International Birth Cohort Group and its history, describes the progress of work, and discusses the advantages of this international collaborative effort.
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