National Study Follows 100,000 Children from Before Birth to Age 21
This article originally appeared in Pathways, a magazine published for physicians and the community by UMass Memorial Medical Center.
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) recently awarded UMass Medical School a contract to participate in a landmark, 20-year study to provide insight into the long-term impact of environmental and genetic factors on children's health and development. Much of the local research will be done in conjunction with physicians on staff at the UMass Memorial Children's Medical Center.
The National Children's Study is the largest study ever to be conducted in the United States to assess these effects and will follow 100,000 children from before birth to age 21, seeking information to prevent and treat some of the nation's most pressing health problems, including autism, birth defects, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
"The Medical School, the Children's Medical Center and its physicians are uniquely positioned to accept this charge from the NICHD in part because of the partnerships established throughout the community and the trust earned over decades of caring for families and children," said Marianne Felice, MD, chair of pediatrics for UMass Medical School and physician-in-chief of UMass Memorial Children's Medical Center. Dr. Felice is the principal investigator of the project, which will be known as MassCHILD (Massachusetts Child Health Indicators and Life Determinants) Study.
Additional Medical School faculty serving on the MassCHILD team are Thomas McLaughlin, ScD, co-principal investigator; Onesky Aupont, MD, operations manager and co-investigator; and co-investigators Katherine Luzuriaga, MD; Janet Hardy, PhD; Tiffany Moore-Simas, MD; and Judith Ockene, PhD.
"By being participants in this prestigious study, we may be able to identify solutions to issues of children's health that are important to us in this area, such as infant mortality," Dr. Felice added.
The Medical School is one of 22 new study centers in the nation. Each center will collect a broad range of biological and environmental samples and data to generate a comprehensive database of material that will provide researchers, health care providers and public health officials with information from which to develop preventive strategies and health and safety guidelines. The Medical School is expected to enroll 1,000 participants within four years, which will likely require identification of more than 13,000 households where there may be pregnant women in the first trimester of pregnancy or women who could become pregnant in the next year. In fact, 25 percent of the children are to be identified before they are even conceived.
Researchers will begin recruiting and training the equivalent of 88 full-time staff and preparing for opening enrollment soon.