May 22, 2008
Today the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released its review of the National Children’s Study Research Plan. The Study’s two volume research plan describes the Study’s background, design, and measures up to 18 months of age. This independent review was requested by the National Children’s Study, and by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Institutional Review Board, the internal body that reviews and approves all NICHD studies involving human volunteers. The purpose of the NAS review was to ensure that the Study is as scientifically rigorous as possible, and yields the greatest possible research benefits.
The report highlights both strengths of the National Children’s Study and areas for improvement. The panel wrote that the Study’s goals and design were responsive to its authorizing legislation, The Children’s Health Act of 2000, meeting the call for a national, long-term study of the environmental influences on children’s health and development. The panel concluded that the Study’s large, nationally representative sample design was a major strength, as was the Study’s ability to measure multiple exposures and outcomes over a long period of time. The panel agreed that the Study’s selection of core areas for research hypotheses represented appropriate topics for research.
The panel recognized the difficulties of conducting a large nationally representative sample in a country that lacked a comprehensive national health database. Similarly, the panel acknowledged that the Study needed to operate within strict budgetary limits. Still, the panel noted a number of concerns with associated recommendations for realizing the Study’s optimum potential. Some recommendations are already being implemented, others will take more time, and still others would not be possible without additional resources.
The National Children’s Study is very pleased with the NAS review and feels that it clearly met the objectives for performing it. We were especially pleased with affirmation that the Study should be carried out and that the general approaches were found to be appropriate (size, representative sample, and priority exposures and outcomes included). Though some of the noted weaknesses and recommendations are either already being addressed or would require substantial additional resources to implement, a number of the recommendations point to ways that the Study can be improved and the Study more optimized. We welcome these recommendations and where possible will be incorporating them into the Study accordingly.
We think that the NAS panel performed a thorough and balanced review that offers valuable support and improvements to the Study, and we thank the panel for their hard work. The NAS panel consisted of members from the Committee on National Statistics, the Board on Children, Youth and Families, and the Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice.
The NAS report is available at: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12211 .
If you are a member of the media and have questions about the review please contact the NICHD Public Information and Communications Branch at 301-594-5133.
Peter C. Scheidt, MD, MPH
Director, National Children’s Study
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
National Institutes of Health