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National Children's Study Launches in Chicago

Families can help researchers by providing information that is expected to improve the health and development of children for generations to come

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November 10, 2010 | by Erin White
CHICAGO --- Why are so many babies born prematurely? Why do so many American children suffer from asthma, autism, obesity, behavior disorders and other health problems? Greater Chicago-area families have a unique opportunity to help better understand and prevent these conditions by participating in the National Children’s Study (NCS). 

Starting this month, the National Children’s Study-Greater Chicago Study Center, which includes Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Chicago and the National Opinion Research Center, will begin enrolling Chicago-area pregnant women and women who may become pregnant in the study.

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

Feinberg received a seven-year, $32-million contract from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to conduct the National Children’s Study in the greater Chicago area.

“By participating in this study, women and their families can really 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 and attending physician at Children's Memorial Hospital. “All information gathered will be held in the highest confidentiality and privacy.”

Four thousand participants in Cook, DuPage and Will counties will ultimately participate in the study. The research will focus on how key factors influence children’s health and well-being, including what they eat and drink, the air they breathe, the safety of their neighborhoods, their family history, who cares for them, and how often they see a doctor.

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

“We are never going to be able to effectively prevent childhood health conditions until we fully understand how and what contributes to them,” said Holl, the principal investigator of the study.

The National Children’s Study-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 in the study.

“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.”

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. 

To find out more about the National Children’s Study-Greater Chicago Study Center, visit: http://www.NationalChildrensStudy.gov

Potential participants can call:  1.866.315.7124

Topics: Research