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 National Children's Study Enters Next Phase (October 2008) 
Special Edition

National Children’s Study Enters Next Phase


October 3, 2008

Today the National Children’s Study announced the 2008 Study Centers that will manage operations in 39 additional locations, entering the next phase of operations to examine the effect of genes and the environment on children’s health.

By following 100,000 children from before birth to age 21, the National Children’s Study will investigate factors influencing the development of a variety of conditions including autism, learning disabilities, birth defects, diabetes, asthma, and obesity.

“The National Children’s Study will encompass a nationally representative sample, designed to be a composite of the U.S. population,” said Duane Alexander, M.D., Director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. “It will include children throughout the United States, from rural, urban, and suburban areas, from all income and educational levels, and from all racial groups.”

The 2008 Study Centers will manage the Study in 25 states. A complete list of the 2008 Study Centers and their locations can be found on the National Children’s Study Web site (PDF 38 KB).

The newly awarded Study Centers were selected from a pool of applicants assessed through a competitive process. The Centers represent collaborations among universities, hospitals, health departments, and private organizations. They will recruit participants; collect genetic, biological, and environmental samples; and compile statistical information for study analyses on the relationships between health, genetics, and the environment.

Study participants will ultimately be recruited from a total of 105 previously selected Study locations across the United States. In 2005, NIH awarded contracts for 7 initial, or Vanguard Centers, followed by 17 additional Study Centers in 2007. Today’s announcement brings the total number of new and existing Study Centers to 36. Eventually, contracts for up to 40 Centers will be awarded.

Funding for the National Children’s Study is provided each year by Congress. If funding is received, and if the necessary approvals are obtained, the National Children’s Study is expected to begin initial recruitment in January 2009 at two Vanguard Centers. This initial recruitment will focus on pilot testing for the Study—early phase testing of recruitment procedures and sampling methods—before the full Study begins. In April of 2009, the remaining Vanguard Centers will continue enrollment for the pilot phase of the Study. After the pilot testing, the first wave of recruitment will begin.

The Study can be expected to provide information through the participants’ 21st year, and some findings will become available within 2 to 3 years after the Study is launched.

Throughout the Study’s duration, intermittent results will allow for continued insights, including information on disorders and conditions of early life.

“The advantage of a long term study of development is that it will yield important health information at virtually every phase of the life cycle,” said Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., Director of the National Institutes of Health.

“Eventually, it will provide greater understanding of adult disorders. In the immediate future, however, we expect it to provide insight into the disorders of birth and infancy.”

According to Peter Scheidt, M.D., M.P.H., Director of the National Children’s Study, the Study could be expected to provide information on the potential contributors to preterm birth. More than 500,000 premature infants are born each year in the United States. Infants born preterm are at risk for early death and a variety of health problems, such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation, and learning disabilities. Health care costs for preterm infants total $26 billion per year.

“We expect that what we learn from the National Children’s Study will provide new information that we can use to begin solving the problem of preterm birth,” Dr. Scheidt said. “We are hopeful that we will have this information in just a few years.”

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The National Children’s Study is led by a
consortium of federal agency partners:

National Institutes of Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention