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Symposium to focus on child health in Southern Appalachia

JOHNSON CITY (March 17, 2017) – East Tennessee State University will host its first-ever multidisciplinary symposium focused on child-maternal health later this month.

Maternal and Child Health: Biology, Behaviors and Environments – Resilience to Poor Health Outcomes will take place Thursday, March 30, at the Millennium Centre. It will feature presentations on research being conducted at the university on a wide range of conditions, health behaviors, environments that affect health, quality of life and more.

“There are different conditions, exposures, and activities that can have an effect on someone’s health throughout life, and impact varies by age of the individual,” said Dr. Claudia Kozinetz, event organizer and chair of the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology in the College of Public Health. “We are trying to learn how to maintain health over the life course, and much of that begins when we are children.”

The focus of the symposium will be on the unique challenges facing children’s health in the Southern Appalachian region, Kozinetz noted.

“Every part of the country has its own characteristics, and place matters,” she said. “We recognize health-related solutions that work in one place may not work somewhere else so we want to keep our focus specifically on what this region faces and how we can improve the population’s health.”

Bruce Behringer will offer the keynote address, focusing on the state of maternal and child health in Northeast Tennessee. Following the Behringer presentation, researchers from ETSU will partner with fellow experts in the field to provide a total of nine sessions throughout the day.

Presenters at the symposium include:

  • Dr. David Wood, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at ETSU’s Quillen College of Medicine, with Dr. Peter Scal, a health services research and pediatrician at the University of Minnesota Medical School. The pair, along with Dr. Kiana Johnson, an assistant professor at Quillen College of Medicine, will discuss transitions to care in pediatric health.
  • Dr. Deb Slawson, chair of the Department of Community Health in ETSU’s College of Public Health, with Dr. Karen Glanz, a professor of medicine and nursing at George A. Weiss University. Slawson and Glanz will discuss nutrition and obesogenic environments.
  • Dr. Cynthia Thomas, of the Tennessee Department of Health, and Dr. Michael Warren, Deputy Commissioner for Population Health, Tennessee Department of Health. They will discuss maternal substance use and prenatal drug exposure in Northeast Tennessee.
  • Dr. Mildred Maisonet, assistant professor in the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology in the ETSU College of Public Health, with Dr. Julia M. Gohlke, known for her expertise in neurodevelopmental risk assessment, community-based approaches and climate change and health. The pair will present on household air pollution as it relates to children.
  • Drs. Beth Bailey and Judy McCook, ETSU professors in the College of Medicine and College of Nursing, respectively, with Dr. Valencia Mormon-Nelson, State Director of Program Services, March of Dimes. They will discuss preconception and pregnancy health with a focus on effects and intervention opportunities.
  • Dr. Katie Baker, an assistant professor in the College of Public Health at ETSU, with Dr. Robert Turrisi, a professor of biobehavioral health and prevention at Penn State University. Baker and Turrisi will address parent-based interventions for improving adolescent health outcomes.
  • Dr. Kim Hale, an associate professor in ETSU’s Claudius G. Clemmer College of Education, with Dr. Paige Pullen, an associate professor at the University of Virginia and a nationally recognized expert in the field of learning disabilities and early literacy development. They will present on language and literacy development as it relates to overcoming the effects of poverty and empowering parents.
  • Dr. Jodi Polaha, an associate professor at Quillen College of Medicine, with Dr. J.D. Smith, an assistant professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Polaha and Smith will discuss family interventions to address biopsychosocial needs of at-risk children in primary care.

The symposium is being funded through a $26,000 ETSU Research Development Committee grant garnered by Kozinetz. It is open to everyone. There is no cost, but registration is required prior to the event.  For more information or to register, visit

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