Directors’ Message

Photo of Dr. Elizabeth A. Shenkman
Elizabeth A. Shenkman, Ph.D. Director, Institute for Child Health Policy

Welcome to the Institute for Child Health Policy, where we bring together researchers from a variety of academic disciplines and use novel research methods, tools and technological advances to tackle some of the most challenging child health issues of our time.

Advances in child health research over the past 10 years hold great promise for understanding the health of and pathways of disease in children. Emerging research in epigenetics, the microbiome and maternal health during pregnancy have already given us surprising new insights into the building blocks of good health in childhood. Genomics research has also led to treatment advances in childhood cancer, sickle cell disease and other rare conditions.

Yet with all the promise this research holds, social disadvantage and other inequities in children’s health, which often persist into adulthood, remain among the nation’s greatest health challenges. More than 1 in 5 children in the United States live below the federal poverty level. About 1 in 7 children has a diagnosed mental, behavioral or developmental disorder, and about 1 in 5 has a chronic physical health condition. Lack of access to high-quality health care, together with risky health behaviors — including tobacco and substance use among parents and children, poor nutrition, inactivity and exposure to environmental toxins — all seriously undermine the health of our children.

The 33 faculty and affiliate members of UF’s Institute for Child Health Policy work in transdisciplinary teams using integrated clinical, environmental and social determinants of health data to identify the biological, behavioral and social underpinnings of children’s health and disease. Faculty also use these data to better target customized interventions to improve individual and population health for children and their families.

Our research portfolio includes funding awards from the National Institutes of Health, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and others.

I invite you to learn more about us and the work we do and join us in our mission to improve children’s health.