National Children’s Study Environmental Summit
Summit helps plan future for large, long-term National Children’s Study, which will examine the effects of the environment, as broadly defined to include factors such as air, water, diet, sound, family dynamics, community and cultural influences, and genetics on the growth, development, and health of children across the United States.
Balintfy: The National Children's Study is the largest long-term examination of children's health ever conducted in the United States. It 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.
Hirschfeld: We have a pilot study underway which we're calling the Vanguard Study; that's active in 37 locations now around the country.
Balintfy: Dr. Steven Hirschfeld is the acting director of the National Children’s Study at the National Institutes of Health. He says the Main Study will get underway sometime in 2012.
Hirschfeld: The Main Study is the exposure-response study.
Balintfy: Researchers want to understand how being exposed to 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 — a person’s DNA — to affect health and development. Dr. Hirschfeld explains that the study will cover many levels of public health, including how to get health information out.
Hirschfeld: How do you and your family learn about some of the best practices supported by evidence that you can implement in your life?
Balintfy: He adds that information gathered through the study will also help answer policy questions.
Hirschfeld: And we are best served by having data to allow policy makers to make those decisions. And then on the third level, there are question that we can’t even anticipate now. We don’t know what the key questions will be.
Balintfy: To help set up a framework so those future questions can be asked and answered, experts recently gathered at the National Children’s Study Environmental Summit. Dr. Michael Dellarco, a senior scientist with the National Children’s Study says there were several take-homes from the meeting including the idea of defining the environment very broadly.
Dellarco: There's a growing recognition that the environment that a child grows up in is not just merely particular chemicals that they come into contact with. There's a variety of factors which can influence growth and development.
Balintfy: Dr. Dellarco adds that because of the large size and length of the study, how scientists record and measure those factors they gather has to be optimized.
Dellarco: There are technologies on the horizon many very close at hand which with a bit of additional investigation can be further developed and tested and introduced into a study of the scale and scope of the National Children's Study. And that's where a great deal of the excitement came in at the meeting.
Balintfy: Dr. Hirschfeld points out that experts from many different fields were invited.
Hirschfeld: Essentially to connect the dots.
Balintfy: He says researchers are embarking upon one of the richest data collection efforts ever conducted, and the wealth of information expected could have a major impact on the health of future generations.
Hirschfeld: If we view the National Children's Study as an important living archive to allow us to systematically generate high quality data across a broad range of different domains then that will continue to serve us because we know where to turn to when we want to ask the questions that thus far no one has had the foresight or the knowledge to pose.
Balintfy: For details on the National Children’s Study, or for information on how to participate, visit the website www.nationalchildrensstudy.gov. This is Joe Balintfy, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Joe Balintfy
Sound Bite: Drs. Steven Hirschfeld and Michael Dellarco
Topic: children, environment, health, development, children’s health, childhood development, health study, National Children’s Study
Additional Info: www.nationalchildrensstudy.gov