|NICHD Announces Contracts to First Research Centers for Planned National Children’s Study
The National Children’s Study — planned to be the largest study ever
undertaken to assess the effects of the environment on child and adult health — took
a major step forward today with the announcement that contracts have been awarded
to 6 Vanguard Centers to pilot and complete the first phases of the Study.
The full Nationwide Study would follow a representative sample of children from
early life through adulthood, seeking information to prevent and treat such health
problems as autism, birth defects, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
“The National Children’s Study would follow more than 100,000 children, from
before birth — and, in some cases, even before pregnancy,” said Duane Alexander,
M.D., Director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development,
one of the National Institutes of Health. “It would meticulously measure their
environmental exposures while tracking their health and development, from infancy
through childhood, until age 21, seeking the root causes of many childhood and
The announcement was made at a news briefing in Washington, D.C.
In the search for environmental influences on human health, and their relationship
to genetic constitution, National Children’s Study researchers plan to examine
such factors as the food children eat, the air they breathe, their schools and
neighborhoods, their frequency of visits to a health care provider, and even
the composition of the house dust in their homes. Study scientists also plan
to gather biological samples from both parents and children and analyze them
for exposure to environmental factors.
The planned National Children’s Study is led by a consortium of federal agency
partners: the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (including the National
Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute of
Environmental Health Sciences at NIH, and the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Dr. Alexander named the following Institutions as the Vanguard Centers for the
National Children’s Study:
- University of California, Irvine, for the Study location of Orange County,
- University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, for the Study location of Duplin
County, North Carolina
- Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, for the Study location of Queens
County, New York
- Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Drexel University School of Public
Health, Philadelphia, for the Study location of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.
- University of Utah, Salt Lake City, for the Study location of Salt Lake County,
- University of Wisconsin (UW), Madison, and the Medical College of Wisconsin,
for the Study location of Waukesha County, Wisconsin.
The federal agencies sponsoring the Study are still negotiating to establish
two additional Vanguard Centers that will serve counties in other areas.
The Vanguard Centers were selected from a pool of applicants through a competitive
process. These centers have successfully demonstrated advanced clinical research
and data collection capabilities, with the ability to collect and manage biological
and environmental specimens; with community networks for identifying, recruiting,
and retaining eligible mothers and infants; and a commitment to the protection
and privacy of data.
The Vanguard Centers, which include a variety of universities, hospitals, health
departments and other organizations, will work within their communities to recruit
participants, collect and process data, and pilot new research methods for incorporation
into the full study.
The Study has adequate funding to launch the Vanguard Centers. The federal agencies
leading it hope to award additional Study Centers to work in a total of 105 sites,
subject to the availability of future funding. Future centers would be selected
in a competitive process like the one just completed for the Vanguard Centers.
The timing of a new competitive process also depends on future funding.
Dr. Alexander added that a coordinating center, WESTAT in Rockville, MD, has been
awarded the contract to manage information for the planned National Children’s
Study, starting with the Vanguard Centers. WESTAT will collect data, compile and
analyze statistics, and ensure that the study proceeds according to design.
Dr. Alexander noted that, in many cases, study researchers would recruit women
before they are even pregnant, as well as the women’s partners. Because many
pregnancies are unplanned, the researchers will also recruit women who are not
The study might eventually lead to preventions or treatments for many common
conditions, said Vice Admiral Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., FACS, the United
States Surgeon General.
“We’re looking to find the root causes of many common diseases and disorders,” Dr.
Carmona said. “When we do, we’ll be in a position to prevent them from ever occurring.”
Dr. Carmona added that the study could also shed light on such indoor environmental
exposures as secondhand smoke, lead, radon, and asbestos.
“We now know that one in five schools in America has indoor air quality problems,
which affect millions of children who don't even realize it,” Dr. Carmona said. “And
that’s where The National Children’s Study comes in. The study could help us
map how our environments, habits, and activities affect our children’s health.”
Other speakers at the briefing included representatives of the federal agencies
sponsoring the study, as well as representatives of associations concerned with
The planned National Children’s Study resulted from a directive by Congress
in 2000 to undertake a national, long-term study of children’s health and their
subsequent development in relation to environmental exposures. The NICHD was
directed to lead the effort in conjunction with other federal agencies. (See:
Section 104, http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=106_cong_bills&docid=f:h4365enr.txt.)
The NICHD is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the biomedical
research arm of the federal government. NIH is an agency of the U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services. The NICHD sponsors research on development, before
and after birth; maternal, child, and family health; reproductive biology and
population issues; and medical rehabilitation.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's Medical Research
Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of
the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary Federal
agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical
research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common
and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov.