Emory University | Woodruff Health Sciences Center
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Message from the Dean

One very special population
james w. curran

Children are special, particularly when it comes to their health. They respond differently from adults to environment, disease, and medicine. For example, children may be more vulnerable to the harmful effects of air pollutants. They breathe in more air (relative to their body size) and have greater metabolic requirements for their immune systems.  

Our aim at Rollins is to promote the health of infants and children through research to bring about policy change. But doing so doesn’t begin with looking at how environmental factors or nutrition—two of the many facets that Rollins faculty study—affect infants and toddlers. Ensuring children’s health begins with the health of their mothers, long before they become pregnant.

One of the first researchers to call attention to the consequences of maternal and child health is Reynaldo Martorell, whose recent studies examine the lifelong effects of famine on children in China. Famine is rare today, but women of reproductive age in the developing world continue to be undernourished from a lack of micronutrients. Martorell’s colleague, Usha Ramakrishnan, calls attention to this troubling problem through her work in India and Vietnam. You can learn more about their work in this issue and that of other faculty, including Dana Boyd Barr’s efforts to protect pregnant women from pesticide exposure in Thailand, Saad Omer’s advocacy that vaccine compliance also include expectant mothers, and Juan Leon’s commitment to protecting babies in Bolivia from a rotavirus infection that causes severe diarrhea.

In August, the world watched as an Emory Healthcare team successfully treated the first two patients with the Ebola virus in our nation. I am proud of Emory for caring for these patients and changing attitudes about treating and containing this disease. Thousands of experts with the CDC and other agencies and the U.S. military are working together to stem the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. These courageous people are working under difficult conditions to save thousands of lives. They exemplify public health practice at its very best.  

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