Study is largest long-term examination of children’s health and development ever conducted in the United States
The National Children’s Study (NCS) has begun inviting women in San Diego to participate in the largest long-term examination of children’s health and development ever conducted in the United States.
Researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and San Diego State University are seeking to enroll women (ages 18-49) who are pregnant or may become pregnant in the next few years into the San Diego County arm of the study. Nationally, the study will follow 100,000 children from before birth to age 21 to learn how the environment influences children’s health, development, and quality of life.
“The National Children’s Study is an investment in the future of America’s children,” said Alan Guttmacher, MD, director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) of the National Institutes of Health. “Through their participation, women and their families can help in the search for information to improve the health, development and well being of future generations.”
Christina D. Chambers, PhD, MPH
Co-principal investigators Mel Hovell, PhD, MPH, of SDSU and Christina Chambers, PhD, MPH, of UCSD said the NIH-funded study will provide San Diego County families and the nation with the most comprehensive understanding of child development and ultimately healthy social practices, ever obtained.
“This study will inform child rearing practices that will promote advanced social skills and healthy lifestyles that will provide the best possible life for future generations,” said Hovell, professor and director of SDSU’s Center for Behavioral Epidemiology and Community Health.
Researchers expect to analyze the information they collect for years to come, to gain new understanding of how environmental factors such as the foods people eat, the chemicals they may be exposed to and other aspects of daily life might interact with genes to affect health and development.
Chambers, associate professor at the UC San Diego School of Medicine is a specialist in environmental causes of pregnancy complications and childhood developmental disabilities. She emphasized that this U.S. study will provide critically needed information about a very large group of children who represent the diversity of our nation as well as San Diego County.
“These children and their families will be followed for 25 years, with enough detail about their specific household environments to learn what causes, as well as what may prevent, common serious conditions such as childhood asthma, diabetes, obesity, autism, and mental illness,” said Chambers. “We will finally be able to create a national sample to help us confirm, for example, whether suspected contaminants such as pesticides and other chemicals are actually the cause of birth defects or metabolic disease.”
Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant in the next few years and who live in San Diego County may be eligible to participate. According to the researchers, participation from families in San Diego County will be critical to the national study due to its diverse racial and ethnic heritage, as well as its large military population and closeness to the U.S.-Mexico border.
The research team will invite families to participate by going door-to-door in randomly selected communities throughout San Diego County and through referrals from health care providers in hopes of recruiting over 1,000 pregnant women.
Initially, participants will be asked to respond to questionnaires about their environment and family health histories. At a later date, participants may be asked to visit clinics at study centers, and asked to provide biological samples, such as blood and urine, as well as environmental samples, like tap water from their homes and house dust. Parents and children will be asked to provide samples and respond to questionnaires.
The project will leverage resources and expertise at the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC), an Organized Research Unit of UC San Diego, by hosting and analyzing collected data in a secure environment.
“This new study provides an unprecedented opportunity to gather long-term child development data,” said Dallas Thornton, SDSC Division Director, Cyberinfrastructure Services. “SDSC looks forward to supporting the study with leading-edge technologies to enable secure collection, storage, and analysis of these important data sets.”
The study is led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Additional information about the study and about volunteering to participate is available at http://www.nationalchildrensstudy.gov.
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