October 3, 2008 — Two Wyoming counties and one in Idaho have been added to the National Children’s Study, the largest investigation ever undertaken to assess the effects of environmental and genetic factors on child and human health in the United States.
National Institutes of Health officials named Uinta and Lincoln counties in Wyoming and Idaho’s Bear Lake County among 39 new study locations, which brings the national total to 72. The three counties are part of the Salt Lake County Vanguard Center named by the NIH when the study was launched in 2005. NIH officials announced the added sites in a briefing on Friday, Oct. 3.
The 25-year, national study began in 2005 when seven national vanguard centers, including Salt Lake County, were named to launch the effort. The University of Utah Department of Pediatrics, with the support of Primary Children’s Medical Center and other health-care and government agencies, received $16 million to fund the new study location. Edward B. Clark, M.D., professor and chair of pediatrics and medical director of PCMC, was named principal investigator for the Salt Lake County Vanguard Center, and will fill that role for the Wyoming and Idaho sites.
“We are excited to add sites in Wyoming and Idaho to the list of study locations,” Clark said. “Their addition will broaden the rural and agricultural scope of the Salt Lake County center.”
Authorized by Congress in the Children’s Health Act of 2000, the National Children’s Study is being conducted by a consortium of federal agencies. This includes two NIH institutes, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The National Children’s Study will follow a representative national sample of 100,000 children from before birth to age 21. Study volunteers will be recruited throughout the United States, from rural, urban, and suburban areas, from all income and educational levels, and from all racial groups. The study will investigate factors influencing the development of such conditions as autism, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, birth defects, diabetes, asthma, and obesity.
In Friday’s briefing, NIH officials said the study would yield health information throughout its 25-year span. Within just a few years, the study will provide information on disorders of pregnancy and birth, and because women would be recruited before they give birth, and in some instances even before they become pregnant, the study will provide insight into the causes and contributors of preterm birth.
More than 500,000 premature infants are born each year in the United States. Infants born prematurely 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.
Fully operational, the study is expected to include from 36 to 50 study centers in the planned 105 study locations throughout the United States, according to Clark. “The National Children’s Study will benefit the nation’s children for generations,” Clark said.