Reach Out to American Communities: National Children's Study Assembly Meets in Atlanta
Reach Out to American Communities, the fourth Study Assembly meeting for the National Children's Study, was held on December 17 in Atlanta with an audience of more than 300 participants from state and local communities, advocacy organizations, the science and medical communities, and industry groups. The goal of the meeting was to engage a broad spectrum of partners from the nation's communities in planning for the National Children's Study.
During 10 afternoon breakout sessions, meeting participants discussed the critical role of communities as partners to ensure Study success, the need for grassroots efforts to build community partnerships, how to engage and retain families as Study participants, and the importance of effective communication about the Study.
These sessions covered subjects such as recruiting diverse and high risk groups, the Study's priority theme areas, ethical issues, and building public and private partnerships. While discussing these issues, participants also shared case examples of local studies and grassroots efforts that have successfully engaged communities.
Highlighting preliminary studies and workshops that have taken place or are underway, poster session presenters answered questions on 20 topics including child sensitivity to environmental chemicals, non-invasive collection of DNA sources, and the parental reporting of childhood injuries.
Julie Gerberding, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), opened the Assembly and called the National Children's Study "a giant step forward to lead us to a healthier future for our children." She stressed that while the Study is "a bold program that deserves the full support of federal agencies," it also needs support from all communities because "public health is local, and we need to engage at that level to change behavior and to change outcomes."
In his remarks, VADM Richard Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.S., U.S. surgeon general, reiterated the need for the National Children's Study and urged the audience to "leave a legacy to our kids and their kids' kids." Dr. Carmona enumerated the child health challenges facing the nation today, including a better understanding of how health disparities contribute to problems like premature birth rates and higher rates of infant mortality. According to Dr. Carmona, "the National Children's Study benefits all of us, and the next generation will reap what we sow today. We need to be bold and send kids happy and healthy into a future that we will have helped to create through this Study."
Child advocate Elise Miller, M.Ed., founder and executive director of the Institute for Children's Environmental Health, described the National Children's Study as an extraordinary opportunity and added that the Study is "important to advocacy groups — to translate the best science for better public education and improved policies." She urged the participants to define the collective agenda to ensure that children are protected and asked the assembled group, "to keep focused and ensure community input throughout the process of bringing the Study to life...that experts, those with special interests, and local communities stay involved in the Study process."
In a review of the funding status of the Study, Duane Alexander, M.D., director, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), explained how more effective strategies for prevention and intervention will help contain the burden of health care costs that currently rests on the government and insurance companies.
"The investment in the National Children's Study is sizable," he said, "but...it is not a lot of money for the promise that the Study holds."
Grazell Howard, J.D., CEO of the Libra Group and executive board member of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, urged the Assembly to share information about the National Children's Study with their greater communities. "Let the American public help to make the Study a success," she said. Ms. Howard is an active advocate for children's health.
Meeting participant Kike Ojo, M.A., environmental justice officer for the City of Atlanta Watershed Management, said, "the National Children's Study will work if every part of the community informs its structures, its goals, and its priorities." Kristine Suozzi, Ph.D., section manager at the Bernalillo County Office of Environmental Health, attended the meeting and said that examining the social environment of the Study participants "is so important to the success of the Study because the stressors that people face and are exposed to are in the communities where they live."
Several National Children's Study planners who spoke to the Assembly urged participants to keep the level of community involvement in Study development high by actively offering input via the National Children's Study e-mail, at NCS@mail.nih.gov, and encouraging other community partners to participate in future Study Assembly meetings. These speakers included Peter Scheidt, M.D., M.P.H., director, National Children's Study Program Office; Diane Dennis-Flagler, M.P.H., health scientist, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, CDC; and Woodie Kessel, M.D., M.P.H., assistant U.S. surgeon general, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
National Children's Study Advisory Committee Meets about Study Theme Areas
The National Children's Study Advisory Committee (NCSAC) met December 15–16 to discuss the major theme areas of the Study as well as the working hypotheses, the Study timeline, and protocol development. Before conducting breakout sessions focusing on a range of health outcomes, NCSAC members heard updates about the hypothesis tracking software, the status of pilot studies, the positive health framework, and sampling design.
Ruth Brenner and Sarah Knox Join the National Children's Study Program Office
Ruth Brenner, M.D., M.P.H., recently joined the National Children's Study Program Office as director of protocol development. Dr. Brenner is a pediatrician and epidemiologist. She previously worked within the Epidemiology Branch in the Division of Epidemiology, Statistics, and Prevention Research at the NICHD where her research focused largely on the epidemiology and prevention of childhood injuries and on the identification of social and individual factors that influence parental health care practices for their young children. Dr. Brenner is responsible for leading the team of scientists within the Program Office in the development of Study protocol and procedures. The protocol team currently consists of an environmental epidemiologist, a behavioral scientist, pediatric epidemiologists, a developmental toxicologist, and an environmental exposure specialist.
Sarah Knox, Ph.D., recently joined the National Children's Study Program Office as a developmental and behavioral scientist. Dr. Knox is an accomplished psychophysiologist who worked previously in the Division of Epidemiology and Clinical Applications at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Her work has focused mainly on large epidemiological studies and clinical trials, investigating the association between psychosocial factors and cardiovascular risks. At the Program Office, Dr. Knox will work on measures and protocol development for the National Children's Study with a special focus on the behavioral sciences. She will also manage pilot and methods development studies related to the social and behavioral sciences.
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The National Children's Study is led by a
consortium of federal agency partners:
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
National Institutes of Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY