Recruitment for participants in the National Children’s Study in the Chicago area has just begun. The study will follow children from birth to age 21 to look at how environmental and genetic factors affect health and disease.
According to the National Institutes of Health, this is the largest and longest study of its kind. NIH received approval by Congress for the study in 2000 and has since established seven Vanguard centers that have already begun recruitment and research. These centers will serve as models for later locations as the multi-year study rolls on.
NIH will partner with the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Centers for Disease Control, to study a total of 100,000 women in 105 locations across the U.S.
According to Jane Holl, the principle investigator for the Greater Chicago Study Center, researchers are looking for a total of 4,000 women between the ages of 18 and 49 who are pregnant, or expecting to become pregnant, to participate in the study. Researchers hope to find 2,000 women in Cook County over the next four years.
Holl said recruitment will begin next year in Will and DuPage counties to find 2,000 more participants. “We’re pretty confident that we will find the number of births we need to find in the community,” Holl said.
The study is modeled after earlier long-term health studies, such as the 1948 Framingham Heart Study, and the 1976 Nurses Health Study. The decades-long National Children’s Study will look at a multitude of environmental factors that influence health, growth and development.
Participants in the study will be asked to volunteer information regarding their family health history, health care, social environment, and socio-economic status. Holl said questions like this seek to take a broad approach to what are usually considered environmental factors. Biological and environmental samples will also be taken in order to determine relationships between the physical environment and health in different geographic locations.
“The study will also be able to provide probably some of the most comprehensive information about women’s fertility and pregnancy in the United States,” Holl said.