This is an archived article.

October 4, 2007

University of Washington to lead local center in landmark national study of children’s health

UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine

The University of Washington has been selected as a study center in the National Children’s Study to assess the effects of environmental and genetic factors on child and human health in the United States. The Pacific Northwest Center for the National Children’s Study will partner with local communities and manage local participant recruitment and data collection in the largest study of child and human health ever conducted in the United States. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to the UW study center totals approximately $26 million over five years.

The UW is one of 22 new study centers of the National Children’s Study, a collaborative effort between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, including the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) at NIH, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“What we learn will help children and families across Washington and throughout the U.S. and shape child health guidance, interventions, and policy for generations to come,” said Elaine Faustman, director of the study center and professor in the UW Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences. Tom Burbacher, UW professor of environmental and occupational health sciences, and Shirley Beresford, UW professor of epidemiology and a member of the Public Health Sciences Division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, are co-directors of the Pacific Northwest Center for the National Children’s Study. The Pacific Northwest Center will be housed in the UW School of Public Health and Community Medicine.

Collaborating partners include Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, which will contribute valuable lessons learned from the Women’s Health Initiative, and Public Health — Seattle & King County. Both will work with the UW to recruit participants for the research project beginning in 2009. As part of the study, the UW will partner with Public Health — Seattle & King County on a number of activities to help engage the local community, such as working together to reach women of childbearing age in King County.

The National Children’s Study eventually 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.

The UW is a national leader in child health research, with many established researchers and centers concerned with children’s health. In particular, UW researchers at the new Pacific Northwest Center will build on lessons learned from the current EPA/NIEHS funded Children’s Environmental Health Risk Research Center that has followed children in agricultural communities for more than eight years through community-based research partnerships.

In total, 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 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. Plans have been approved to partner with Oregon Health Sciences University and Marion County communities as an additional study location in the Pacific Northwest.

The National Children’s Study 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. Today’s announcement of new study centers follows earlier study milestones, including the 2004 announcement of the 105 study locations and the establishment of the Vanguard centers (the first seven centers, established in 2005).