The University of Mississippi Medical Center has been selected as one of 22 study centers nationwide by the National Children's Study (NCS), the largest study of child and human health ever conducted in the United States, to assess the effects of environmental and genetic factors on child and human health in the country.
Funding for the new study centers and the study's initial phase is a result of a $69 million appropriation from Congress in FY 2007. Dr. Anthony Mawson, UMC professor of preventive medicine, is principal investigator for the study at the Medical Center.
“This is excellent news for the research community in Mississippi,” said Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi. “Our state continues to expand its capacity for medical and scientific research, and I am pleased that the University of Mississippi Medical Center has been recognized and chosen as a site for the National Children's Study.
“As one of the premier research hospitals in the region, UMC is perfectly suited to conduct this important study.”
“I am delighted that UMC has been selected to participate in the National Children's Study,” said Rep. Chip Pickering of Mississippi. “Many health issues face our children today, such as autism, obesity and diabetes. It is extremely exciting that Mississippi has the opportunity to help provide solutions to these prevalent health concerns facing our country.
“I know the partnership between the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and UMC will generate amazing results and assure a bright future for the children in Mississippi and across the nation.”
The NCS is a collaboration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (including the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The initial study centers will manage local participant recruitment data collection in 26 communities across the United States for the NCS. Ultimately, the study will be conducted in 105 previously designated study locations across the United States that together are representative of the entire U.S. population.
A rigorous national probability sample was used to select the counties in the study, which took into account factors including race and ethnicity, income, education level, number of births, and number of babies born with low birth weights.
The NCS will follow a representative sample of 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. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Mississippi has the highest infant-mortality rate per 1,000 live births in the nation.
"This is a very important event for the University of Mississippi Medical Center research program,” said Dr. John Hall, Arthur C. Guyton Professor and chair of physiology and biophysics at UMC. “It will likely have far-reaching impact on understanding the factors that influence children's health in Mississippi.”
“The National Children's Study is poised to identify the early antecedents of a broad array of diseases that affect both children and adults,” said Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). “Such insights will lead to the means to successfully treat and even prevent conditions that to date have defied our best efforts.”
Researchers will examine not only what children are eating and drinking, but “what's in the air they breathe, what's in the dust in their homes, and their possible exposure to chemicals from materials used to construct their homes and schools,” said Dr. Duane Alexander, director of the NIH's National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). “The researchers also will analyze blood and other biological samples from study participants to test for exposure to environmental factors and examine whether those factors might influence their health.”
The centers will begin hiring and training staff, meeting with local community groups and health care professionals, and forming community advisory boards to inform communities about developments in a range of study-related issues, according to Dr. Peter Scheidt, NCS director.
Teams from each study center will engage in community-based grassroots campaigns to explain the potential benefits of the study, build relationships with area health care providers and reach out to parenting groups and other organizations offering health information and support to families.
The NCS began in response to the Children's Health Act of 2000, when Congress directed the NICHD and other federal agencies to undertake a national, long-term study of children's health and development in relation to environmental exposures.