NIH Revives Data Collection on Children’s Environmental Risk Factors When NIH put an end to the ambitious National Children’s Study (NCS) a year ago, the effort to identify environmental risk factors for autism and other childhood disorders came to a halt. NIH is now reviving data collection efforts through a new study, Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO). ... News in Brief
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News in Brief  |   December 01, 2015
NIH Revives Data Collection on Children’s Environmental Risk Factors
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Research Issues, Methods & Evidence-Based Practice / Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / News in Brief
News in Brief   |   December 01, 2015
NIH Revives Data Collection on Children’s Environmental Risk Factors
The ASHA Leader, December 2015, Vol. 20, 16. doi:10.1044/leader.NIB3.20122015.16
The ASHA Leader, December 2015, Vol. 20, 16. doi:10.1044/leader.NIB3.20122015.16
When NIH put an end to the ambitious National Children’s Study (NCS) a year ago, the effort to identify environmental risk factors for autism and other childhood disorders came to a halt. NIH is now reviving data collection efforts through a new study, Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO).
NCS launched in 2000 as the largest ever long-term study of pregnant women and their children in the U.S. The project was designed to follow 100,000 children from before birth to age 21. Field workers were to interview mothers and collect blood, other specimens, and household samples. The goal was to correlate exposure to factors—such as air pollution and psychological stress before and after birth—with the development of disorders including autism, asthma and obesity.
The NCS was in its pilot phase when an expert review committee advised that study as designed was not feasible. It closed in December 2014 after costs had topped $1.3 billion.
ECHO, conversely, is designed to extend and integrate ongoing studies to answer the same questions as the NCS, eliminating the need to create a massive new national sample.
Congress has earmarked $165 million for the new project, which will involve teams of investigators already leading large studies. These research teams could separately expand their samples or collaborate, merging their data.
Every research team ECHO funds will aim to collect data on environmental exposures in childhood. NIH plans to select and oversee a centralized site that will merge common data from the separate studies, with specific research questions left to individual investigators.
Although piggybacking on existing studies could make data extraction more challenging, NIH hopes the patchwork approach could improve the rigor of current longitudinal studies—such as the Early Autism Risk Longitudinal Investigation, which is already following 229 families. ECHO funding may also encourage researchers conducting longitudinal studies in other fields to collect data relevant to autism.
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December 2015
Volume 20, Issue 12