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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University October 13, 2008 | Vol. 38 No. 7
SPH Expands Role in National Children's Study

Representative sample will include 100,000 children from before birth to age 21

By Tim Parsons
School of Public Health

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has been selected to expand its role as a study center in the National Children's Study. At a briefing held Oct. 8, officials from the National Institutes of Health announced that the Bloomberg School would oversee recruitment of study volunteers from Montgomery County, Md., in collaboration with colleagues from the Johns Hopkins Montgomery County campus and from local health agencies. In addition, the Johns Hopkins-based research team will continue to recruit study participants from neighborhoods in Baltimore County.

The National Children's Study will eventually 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 aims to investigate factors influencing the development of such conditions as autism, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, birth defects, diabetes, asthma and obesity.

"What we learn will help promote the well-being of children and families in Baltimore and Montgomery counties and across the United States as well as shape child health guidance, interventions and policy for generations to come," said Lynn Goldman, principal investigator and a professor in the Bloomberg School's Department of Environmental Health Sciences. "Only a study of the magnitude of the National Children's Study can provide answers to some of the most important questions about how we help children meet their full potential for health and development.

The Bloomberg School of Public Health is one of 36 study centers of the National Children's Study, which is a collaborative effort between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Johns Hopkins-based center will work with local health departments, neighborhood and community organizations, hospitals and parents groups to recruit and enroll women from neighborhoods in Baltimore and Montgomery counties to participate in the long-term study, which will examine a host of health outcomes, including pregnancy, neurodevelopment and behavior, child health and development, asthma and growth, injury and reproductive development. The study will also look at childhood chronic conditions as they are influenced by environmental factors such as chemical exposures, the physical environment and the psychosocial environment, as well as by biological and genetic factors.

In total, the study will be conducted in 105 previously designated study locations across the United States that together are representative of the entire U.S. population. A national probability sample was used to select the counties in the study, taking into account factors including race and ethnicity, income, education level, number of births and number of babies born with low birth weights.

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 Environmental Protection Agency.

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, according to U.S. government statistics.

"Healthy children can become healthy adults," said Michael J. Klag, dean of the Bloomberg School. "The National Children's Study is the first step toward understanding risk factors for diseases affecting children and for preventing those diseases later in life."


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