Created to better understand the causes of important childhood disease such as diabetes, obesity, asthma, autism, and birth defects, the National Children's Study (NCS) - the largest long-term study of children's health ever conducted globally - launched in Los Angeles County on Feb. 22 as part of a countrywide effort.
To date, it is the most ambitious children's study in history, following the development of approximately 100,000 children nationwide from pre-conception (prenatal) through their first 21 years of life. Under the direction of the UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities, the NCS in Los Angeles County launched enrollment of 4,000 participants from 14 randomly selected LA County neighborhoods with the number of qualifying areas growing to 56 neighborhoods as the study progresses. Information gained from districts under the Los Angeles & Ventura Study Center - one of the largest centers in the country - will be shared with 104 other counties across the country in this landmark study.
The goal of the study is to improve the health and well-being of children and to contribute greater understanding to the role environmental factors and genetics may have on health and disease. The study is actively seeking women ages 18 to 49 who are pregnant or are likely to become pregnant from among the first 14 chosen neighborhoods (these include: Alhambra, Brentwood, Compton, Crenshaw, Downey, Downtown LA, Highland Park, Lancaster, Lennox, Lynwood/Southgate, North Hills, San Pedro, Sun Valley and West Covina).
With cooperative efforts from supporting universities, community groups, local health departments and hospitals such as Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, prospective participants will receive information about the study through the mail and complete confidential surveys. Participants who are eligible to participate in the study and who complete other parts of the study after the first visit may receive either a small gift or about $25 as a thank you. Based on previous surveys, some may be invited to take part in additional activities such as health screenings and appointments similar to a check-up, however all participants will be compensated for their time. The NCS is an observational study and does not involve any medications or treatments.
"The research will be one of the most important generators of new knowledge on child and adult health and development ever attempted especially since children interact with their surroundings differently and are more vulnerable than adults to environmental exposures," said principal investigator Dr. Neal Halfon, professor of pediatrics, public health and public policy at UCLA and director of the UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities. "There has been no definitive understanding, beyond a rudimentary concept, of how these factors affect development, so we expect this landmark study will shape child health guidance, interventions and policy for generations to come."
The NCS anticipates that over time the broad scope of the study will shed light on questions ranging from how environmental factors such as air and water pollution may affect a child's health and development. Researchers are also optimistic that such data may reveal insight to important issues such as ADHD, autism and diabetes. Findings from the study will be made available as the research progresses, making potential benefits known to the public as soon as possible.
The NCS continues to build grassroots support and momentum from county board members and school districts across the country and encourages eligible residents to complete the first step by checking on their enrollment eligibility. Interested women are asked to call the toll-free number (1-877-834-7064) to speak with a study team member.
The NCS in Los Angeles County is directed by the UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families, and Communities, which is an internationally distinguished leader in child health research and policy. The UCLA-based team of scientific investigators will be joined by collaborating investigators from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the University of Southern California, Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, the Los Angeles Department of Public Health, First 5 Los Angeles County, the Ventura County Public Health Department, First 5 Ventura County, the Research Triangle Institute and the Rand Corp.