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 in November, 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, began enrolling Chicago-area pregnant women and women who may become pregnant.
The study will 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.
More than 100,000 children, representative of the entire population of American kids, will be studied. 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 taken, said Jane Holl, MD, associate professor of pediatrics and preventive medicine at Feinberg and attending physician at Children’s Memorial Hospital. 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.