With its rolling green hills and farms, rural Duplin County, North Carolina, couldn’t be more different from urban Queens, New York, which calls itself the “most culturally diverse city” in the United States.
Together, however, they contribute to a cross-sectional picture of our Nation.
That’s why, after 8 years of intensive research and planning, the National Children’s Study selected these Vanguard Centers to launch the recruitment and Vanguard cohort phase of the Study. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York will begin recruiting volunteer Study participants this week.
“The hard work of the Study’s scientists and advisors has produced a large, national, comprehensive study that will monitor the health of 100,000 American children as they grow to adulthood. Although other nations have embarked on similar undertakings, the National Children’s Study is uniquely American in its scope,” said Dr. Duane Alexander, Director of the National Institutes of Health’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). “To be truly representative of the nation as a whole, the National Children’s Study had to devise a sampling plan that would encompass the country’s diversity.” Dr. Alexander added that, “Study scientists have identified a total of 105 U.S. locations, which are counties or clusters of counties, from which to recruit participating families. These Study locations were scientifically chosen to provide a representative sample of America’s racial, ethnic, geographic, and economic diversity.”
In April of this year, the remaining five Vanguard Centers are expected to begin recruiting women to take part in the Study. It is anticipated that each Vanguard Center will recruit approximately 375 participants by the end of the 18-month long Vanguard cohort phase of the Study.
“As the Vanguard cohort phase continues, we’ll go over what we’ve learned, examine our data collection and recruitment methods, and see whether and how we might need to refine our methods before beginning the full Study,” said Dr. Peter Scheidt, Director of the National Children’s Study Program Office.
Study Centers will organize presentations and other community awareness activities in the 105 Study locations to inform people of the National Children’s Study and encourage participation. The households in these locations will receive letters describing the Study and will be contacted later to determine their interest in participating. Prenatal care providers and clinics will also assist with reaching women, explaining the importance of the Study, and asking eligible women to participate.
Dr. Barbara Entwisle, the Principal Investigator (PI) of the National Children’s Study Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, described Duplin as a large (819 square miles), sparsely populated, rural county, with a focus on industrial agriculture, such as pork and turkey production and processing. The county also has one of the largest influxes of Hispanic immigrants.
“We will travel 885 miles of road to contact women who are either pregnant or are thinking about pregnancy, and talk to them about enrolling in the Study,” said Dr. Entwisle. “We will cover half of the area of the county and hope to recruit half of the births to women living in Duplin each year for the next 5 years.” Given the need to recruit a significant sector of the female population, the Study Center has been working closely with the local community advisory group to develop the best strategy for encouraging participation in the Study, particularly among Hispanics, who represent a sizeable portion of the community.
While all this is taking place in Duplin County, National Children’s Study researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine will be doing much of the same thing in Queens. Although both are Vanguard Centers, Duplin County and Queens represent two opposite ends of the American spectrum in terms of population density and region and highlight the diversity of the U.S. population that is needed for the National Children’s Study. Queens, unlike Duplin County, is a densely populated, urban community, with 2.23 million people, who speak more than 150 languages. It is the single most ethnically and racially diverse area in the United States, according to Dr. Philip Landrigan, PI of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine Study Center in New York.
“Queens is a remarkable launching pad for the National Children’s Study because of its diversity,” said Dr. Landrigan. Like many urban areas in the United States, Queens is disproportionately affected by the many conditions the National Children’s Study will analyze. Dr. Landrigan explained that, in some parts of New York City:
- One in four children has asthma.
- One in five children entering kindergarten is overweight.
- Approximately one out of every 28 babies born in New York State has a birth defect.
“It is very exciting to reach the point at which we’re beginning enrollment and data collection,” said Dr. Scheidt. “Findings from the Study will ultimately benefit all Americans by providing researchers, health care providers, and public health officials with information from which to develop prevention strategies, health and safety guidelines, and possibly new treatments—and perhaps even cures—for disease.”
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The National Children’s Study is led by a
consortium of federal agency partners:
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND
National Institutes of Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY