October 4, 2007
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Northwestern Launches Largest Study on Chicago Kids’ Health
CHICAGO—What are the most critical health problems of children in the Chicago area, and how can these problems best be prevented or treated?
Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine will help answer these important questions with the launch of an historic federally-funded study that will follow 4,000 children in Cook County from before birth to age 21.
The Feinberg School has received a seven-year, $32 million contract from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to be the Chicago study center of the National Children’s Study, the largest study of child and human health ever conducted in the United States.
“By better understanding the health of children in our community, we can better understand how to improve their health and provide for their health care needs,” said principal investigator Jane L. Holl, MD, MPH, associate professor of pediatrics and preventive medicine at the Feinberg School. Dr. Holl also is medical director for patient safety and an attending physician at Children’s Memorial Hospital.
“What we learn will not only help children and families in the Chicago area, but also children across the country,” Dr. Holl said. “We want people to understand why it’s so important to participate.”
Dr. Holl expects to begin recruiting families from Chicago and the suburbs of Cook County in the summer of 2009. Northwestern will collaborate with the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, which will help with community outreach and coordinate clinical services for study participants in their areas. The National Opinion Research Center will also participate.
The National Children’s Study will assess the effects of environmental and genetic factors on pregnant women, children, and adults. Its goal is to prevent and treat some of the nation’s most serious health problems including autism, birth defects, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
“Many diseases that occur in adulthood had a beginning in childhood,” Dr. Holl said. “We can probably prevent or decrease many diseases by understanding what leads to the disease and by intervening much earlier. “
Study researchers will examine such things as what children eat, the air they breathe, the water they drink, the safety of their neighborhoods, how they are cared for, and how often they see a physician. Researchers also will look at children’s possible exposure to chemicals from materials used to construct their homes and schools.
Scientists will analyze biological substances like blood, urine, and hair from study participants to test for exposure to environmental factors and examine how these factors might influence their health.
The study centers were selected based on a strong ability to coordinate the collection of data for the study, build extensive community networks for recruiting eligible women and newborns, and protect the privacy of the information collected on participants.
The national study will recruit more than 100,000 children representative of the entire population of American children.