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National Children's Study Announces Addition of New Study Centers

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What causes autism in children?
Triggers preterm birth?
Leads to cerebral palsy?

These are just a few of the many health-related questions that researchers at newly announced and existing study centers of the National Children’s Study of environmental influences on health and development will address during the next quarter century.

On October 3, the nation’s largest, long-term study of children’s health and development unveiled 12 new National Children’s Study Centers, as well as funding for both the new and the 24 existing centers. NICHD’s Director, Duane Alexander, M.D., and Peter Scheidt, M.D., M.P.H., director of the National Children’s Study, announced the awards during a series of briefings to stakeholders and media.

The National Children’s Study will begin recruitment for its pilot study in January 2009. The pilot study is designed to test recruitment procedures and sampling methods before the full study begins. Once researchers have refined these procedures and methods, recruitment for the full study will begin in 2010.

The goal is to recruit pregnant women, or women who could become pregnant, from diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, and to track the effects of genetic and environmental influences on their children—100,000 will be enrolled—from before birth to age 21. By tracking mothers during pregnancy, and children through their various stages of development, researchers hope to find the connections between factors that can lead to diseases and disorders both in childhood and adulthood. Conditions of interest to the Study include birth defects and pregnancy-related problems, injuries, asthma, obesity and diabetes, and behavioral, learning, and mental health problems, among other conditions.

Discovering factors that contribute to these conditions—and how those factors are linked—will provide scientists and health care providers with critical information needed to create effective interventions and treatments. More important, these data could shed light on preventing problems from the outset, thereby creating a healthier future for Americans of all ages.

Mandated by Congress in the Children’s Health Act of 2000, the Study is a collaborative effort involving many public and private partners committed to improving children’s health. The Study is led by a consortium of federal agencies including: the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (the NICHD and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences within the NIH, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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Originally Posted: October 3, 2008

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