Researchers are planning the largest study of children in the United States ever — hoping to track one hundred thousand children around the country from conception to adulthood. For health nerds like me, this study is both interesting and ambitious, and I can’t wait to see how it goes.
Right now, researchers are looking for mothers-to-be around the country. The first wave of recruitment focused on North Carolina and New York; in a few months, recruitment will be under way in California, Utah, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Minnesota. These initial locations will help weed out problems in the recruitment process. Nationwide enrollment in the National Children’s Study will start in 2010 (probably by the summer but dates may change).
Basically, this huge study hopes to see how environment and genetics interact on a person’s health. Researchers are going to be looking at everything they can — from a mother’s diet while pregnant to household environment and more — to see how it all adds up in a child’s development. In theory, this study will shed some light on causes of some major diseases (like asthma, birth defects, and autism) and give hints to where disease can be prevented.
Participants will give samples of blood, hair, and urine for testing. Researchers will test water and dust levels in participants’ homes. During pregnancy, participating families will go through health interviews. After birth, the researchers will conduct exams of the children and the home environment during the first year of life and every three years or so afterward.
The first birth in the study is anticipated for July of this year, even though recruitment for mothers will be going on into 2010.
The first data we can expect to see from the study should be available by 2012. Researchers can look at problems like birth defects and premature birth without waiting for the subjects to grow up. Within five years, we can expect to see information about early childhood diseases.