The study, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health, will follow an estimated 100,000 children in communities across the United States, from before birth to 21 years of age. It will seek information to prevent and treat some of the nation's most pressing health problems, including autism, birth defects, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
Over the next two decades, researchers from UD's Center for Disabilities Studies, the School of Nursing and the Department of Individual and Family Studies, in partnership with Christiana Care Health System and the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, will monitor the health of 1,100 children in New Castle County, Del., which is one of 105 study sites selected for the nationwide initiative. The Delaware study site is part of a regional collaboration managed by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Drexel University College of Medicine.
“We are excited to launch this long-term research partnership that will ultimately impact the health of our children as well as federal and state policy decisions,” said Bethany Hall-Long, associate professor of nursing in UD's College of Health Sciences and the Delaware study center's principal investigator. Hall-Long also holds a joint appointment as an associate policy scientist in the Health Services Policy Research Group in the College of Human Services, Education and Public Policy.
“Here at UD, we will be busy with project management, community outreach, home visits and child health assessments. It is an honor to be part of such a terrific team,” Hall-Long noted.
Deborah Amsden, a researcher at UD's Center for Disabilities Studies in the College of Human Services, Education and Public Policy, is the project director. She will oversee day-to-day operations, from recruiting field staff to monitoring the extensive data on children and the environment that will be collected during the 25-year effort.
Martha Buell, professor, and Christine Ohannessian, associate professor, both in UD's Department of Individual and Family Studies, also will play an integral role in the Delaware study center's operation.
A major objective of the study is to examine how environmental inputs and genetic factors interact to affect the health and development of children, Amsden said.
“We'll be collecting a great deal of information on environmental quality, including air and water samples from where these children live,” Amsden noted. “There will be opportunities for faculty and student involvement from across the University in this interdisciplinary project, which will provide access to a national protocol for collecting data on children and their environment over a long period of time.”
The study will officially launch in 2008, with the first data to be collected in 2009. Two hundred fifty children will be identified for the first phase of the study, with successive groups of children to be added each year for five years.
The study is being conducted in 105 U.S. locations that together are representative of the nation's population. A national probability sample was used to select the counties in the study, which took into account such factors as race and ethnicity, income, education level, number of births and babies born with low birth weights.
Article by Tracey Bryant
Photo by Duane Perry