The National Institutes of Health announced in early January that the National Children’s Study has begun to recruit volunteer mothers-to-be and potential mothers-to-be to take part in its groundbreaking examination of the health and development of more than 100,000 children from before birth through their 21st birthdays.
The study will research how natural and man-made environmental, biological, genetic and psychosocial factors interact to affect children’s health. Studying children though all phases of their growth and development will allow scientists to learn the role such factors play in human health and diseases such as asthma, autism, birth defects and diabetes.
“Initially, [the study] will provide major insights into disorders of birth and infancy, such as preterm birth and its health consequences. Ultimately it will lead to a greater understanding of adult disorders, many of which are thought to be heavily influenced by early life exposures and events,” Dr. Duane Alexander, director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) at the National Institutes of Health, said in a press statement.
Data will be collected at 105 sites in 36 states. The study locations consist of counties or clusters of counties chosen by researchers as collectively representative of the environments of all U.S. children. The first wave of recruitment began in January at locations in rural North Carolina and New York City. Five sites in Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Montana, California, Utah and Wisconsin will begin recruiting in April.
A consortium of federal agencies is collaborating on the study. In addition to NICHD, other participants are the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Although Congress authorized the study as part of the Children’s Health Act of 2000, volunteer enrollment was to have begun early last year but was delayed by repeated funding threats.
President George W. Bush’s proposed fiscal 2006 budget included only $12 million in funding for the project – a $57 million shortfall. Despite more than $50 million spent on planning, design and pilot studies by February 2007, the Bush administration called for the study’s elimination. Instead, Congress appropriated $69 million last year to allow research to continue.
More information on the National Children’s Study is available at http://www.nationalchildrensstudy.gov/Pages/default.aspx.