U.S. to Launch National Study of Children’s Health: Research Will Probe Impact of Environment on Developmental Outcomes Planning is underway for the National Children’s Study, which will become the largest and most comprehensive study of children’s health and development ever conducted in the United States. The study, which will begin enrolling participants in 2007, is led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-through the National ... On the Pulse
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On the Pulse  |   November 01, 2005
U.S. to Launch National Study of Children’s Health: Research Will Probe Impact of Environment on Developmental Outcomes
Author Notes
  • Susan Boswell, an assistant managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be reached at sboswell@asha.org.
    Susan Boswell, an assistant managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be reached at sboswell@asha.org.×
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Development / Research Issues, Methods & Evidence-Based Practice / Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / ASHA News & Member Stories / On the Pulse
On the Pulse   |   November 01, 2005
U.S. to Launch National Study of Children’s Health: Research Will Probe Impact of Environment on Developmental Outcomes
The ASHA Leader, November 2005, Vol. 10, 2-10. doi:10.1044/leader.OTP.10162005.2
The ASHA Leader, November 2005, Vol. 10, 2-10. doi:10.1044/leader.OTP.10162005.2
Planning is underway for the National Children’s Study, which will become the largest and most comprehensive study of children’s health and development ever conducted in the United States. The study, which will begin enrolling participants in 2007, is led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The National Children’s Study is designed to help pinpoint the causes of many of today’s major childhood and adult diseases and disorders, to determine not only which aspects of the environment are harmful, but also which are helpful to children’s health and development. The longitudinal cohort study will involve 100,000 children over a 21-year period, from before birth to age 21, to better understand the interaction between multiple environmental factors and potential health and developmental outcomes.
The study, made possible by the passage of the Children’s Health Act of 2000 (P.L. 106–310), will provide a national resource to address critical child health issues. The study results will offer those who work with children-researchers, public health officials, health care providers, educators-a resource for data from which to develop prevention strategies, health and safety guidelines, educational approaches, and possibly new treatments and cures for medical conditions.
Several high-priority outcomes and exposures will be investigated: pregnancy outcomes; injury; asthma; obesity, diabetes, and physical development; child development and mental health; genetics; and exposures in the physical, chemical, psychosocial, and biological environment.
Demographic Representation
Locations for the study were selected using a probability-based method that helps ensure children across the nation are fairly represented, both geographically and demographically. The study will draw on information about children in 79 metropolitan locations and 26 rural locations. Each location will have a goal of enrolling at least 250 newborns per year for the first four or five years of the study.
In 2007, the first stage of the study will launch at six centers-the University of California Irvine for Orange County, CA; the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for Duplin County, NC; the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City for Queens, NY; Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Drexel University for Montgomery County, PA; the University of Utah in Salt Lake City for Salt Lake County, UT and the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Medical College of Wisconsin for Waukesha County, WI. The study’s aim is to eventually involve 105 communities.
ASHA member Juanita Sims Doty was appointed as senior advisor for outreach at the NIH National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). “We want to ensure that all communities know about the study and will want to become partners and participants in it,” Doty said. “Families who join the study will come from many different racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups in communities across the country. It’s critical that the community is involved in all aspects of this process.”
The success of the study will depend upon participation of families and communities, Doty noted. “We are asking ASHA members to encourage friends, neighbors, and families who live in the study areas to participate beginning in 2007,” she said.
Initially, participants will be drawn from three groups-pregnant women and their partners; couples planning pregnancy; and women who are of childbearing age but not planning a pregnancy. In the past, other studies have investigated prenatal environmental exposures within the first trimester of pregnancy through the time of birth, but the National Children’s Study is the first study of this size to capture exposures prior to and early in pregnancy, and then to track participants for more than 20 years.
To collect data on these various issues, families who are enrolled will participate in a minimum of 15 in-person visits with a local research team beginning from the first trimester of pregnancy or earlier through 21 years of age. These visits will take place in the families’ homes and in medical settings.
Data will also be collected from schools and any location where the child spends at least 30 hours a week. In addition, surveys will be administered every three months until age 5 and annually thereafter. Over time, biological samples will be taken from the mother, father, and child, and air, water, soil, and dust samples will be taken from the child’s environment. Researchers will begin to analyze information as soon as it is collected, and preliminary findings may be available around 2010.
President Bush’s budget proposal includes only $12 million in funding for FY 2006-a $57 million shortfall. The future of the study could be in jeopardy if this additional funding is not obtained. ASHA and other organizations are advocating for full funding for the study as an important investment in children’s health.
“I believe that it would be extremely shortsighted to put off this study,” said ASHA President Dolores E. Battle in a letter to Sens. Arlen Specter and Tom Harken, of the Senate Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Committee on Appropriations. “The cost of the study is dwarfed by the cost of treating the diseases and conditions it can be expected to address.”
Battle cited NICHD estimates that the major chronic diseases the study will address directly cost America $269 billion per year. If the study were to result in only a 1% reduction in those costs, the expense of the entire study could be recouped in a single year.
How to Participate
The National Children’s Study Program Office is working to ensure that the study protocols will ask questions regarding developmental issues that are important to the discipline of communication sciences and disorders. “As these protocols are still in the development phases, ASHA members are encouraged to visit the National Children’s Study Web site to find out how to contribute information regarding those issues that are important to you,” Doty said.
Speech-language pathologists and audiologists can become involved in this national study by:
  • Participating in meetings of the Study Assembly that are held once or twice a year to provide information on the status of the study and to provide an opportunity for assembly members to give feedback on various aspects of the study (next meeting Nov. 29–30 in Washington, DC)

  • Participating on clinical teams at one of 30–50 regional facilities selected through a competitive process

  • Serving as a referral source for participating children and families identified with communication disorders

  • Collaborating with organizations that are actively demonstrating support for funding of the study, such as the March of Dimes, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Children’s Environmental Health Network

For more information on the National Children’s Study or to join the Study Assembly, visit the National Children’s Study Web site or e-mail NCS@mail.nih.gov.
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November 2005
Volume 10, Issue 16