National children's study launches in Chicago

National children's study launches in Chicago

Families can help researchers collect information that could improve the health and development of children for generations

November 9, 2010

Chicago-area families can help researchers understand why so many American children suffer from prematurity, asthma, autism, obesity, behavior disorders and other health problems and eventually to prevent these conditions by participating in the National Children's Study (NCS).

In November, teams from the National Opinion Research Center, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago will begin enrolling Chicago-area women who are pregnant, or who may become pregnant, in the National Children's Study-Greater Chicago Study Center.

The project will follow the children and their families from before birth to age 21 to help determine how family history and physical and social environments influence their health.

A seven-year, $32-million contract from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development will fund the greater Chicago-area component of the national study.

Four thousand volunteers in Cook, DuPage and Will counties will ultimately participate. All information gathered will be held in the highest confidentiality and privacy.

"Participation by hospitals and individual physicians, especially obstetricians, will be crucial for the success of this project," said Daniel Johnson, MD, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Chicago Medical Center and co-investigator of the National Children's Study-Greater Chicago Study Center. "The research will focus on how key factors influence children's health and well-being: the food they eat, the air they breathe, the neighborhoods they live in, their family history, who cares for them, and how often they see a doctor."

Specimens will be collected at birth. Over time, other samples such as blood and hair and in-depth cognitive, developmental, and physical health assessments will be added. Soil, water and other samples from the physical environment will also be gathered.

"By participating in this study, women and their families can contribute to understanding and improving the health of children in their neighborhoods and across the United States," said Jane Holl, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics and preventive medicine at Feinberg, attending physician at Children's Memorial Hospital and principal investigator of the study. "We are never going to be able to effectively prevent childhood health conditions until we fully understand how and what contributes to them," she said.

The Greater Chicago Study Center is one of 105 National Children's Study locations around the United States. More than 100,000 children, representative of the entire population of American children, will be included.

The National Children's Study will be one of the most comprehensive research efforts, and the largest and most detailed study in history focused on children's health and development in the United States.

"There has never been a study as large or as long before," Holl said. Longitudinal studies about children have been done but none have gathered as much health information, as well as specimens from the children, parents, and the environment.

Findings from the Study will be made available as the research progresses, making potential benefits known to the public as soon as possible.

Letters with more information are being mailed to households asking women and families to call the National Children's Study-Greater Chicago Study Center to find out if they are eligible to participate in the study.

Potential participants can call: 1.866.315.7124