The University of Utah will receive $3.7 million in research funding over four years as part of a new AHA children’s research network announced last week. The network will focus on improving children’s heart health, investing almost $15 million in work at four institutions.

The Utah study aims to prevent or predict congenital heart disease and improve decision-making between parents and physicians. The team will use machine-learning data mining algorithms to approach congenital heart disease as a family disease to look at causes, as well as the impact of maternal-fetal environment on health. The research will be led by Martin Tristani-Firouzi, M.D. Experts say that helping children maintain ideal cardiovascular health is more effective than taking a wait-and-see approach and treating disease in adulthood. The aim of the AHA’s Strategically Focused Research Network for children is to help reach that goal through studies looking at childhood obesity, maintaining ideal heart health, congenital heart disease and rheumatic heart disease.

Strategically Focused Research Networks study prevention, hypertension, disparities, women’s health, heart failure, and obesity. This is now the fourth Strategically Focused Research Network awarding a research institute in the Western States Affiliate, and the second for the University of Utah (also selected as part of the network on heart failure). The others include the women’s health network in San Diego, heart failure network at the University of Utah, and stroke research network at UCLA. The AHA will launch new networks focused on vascular disease and atrial fibrillation in 2018.