This is an archived article.

October 3, 2008

University of Washington, Washington State University, Oregon Health & Science University collaborate in landmark national study of children’s health

UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has announced a grant of approximately $40 million over five years to the Pacific Northwest Center for the National Children’s Study at the University of Washington to partner with Washington State University, Oregon Health & Science University, and local communities in Washington’s Grant County and Oregon’s Marion County. The study center will recruit participants and collect data in the largest study of child health ever conducted in the United States.

Part of a comprehensive study on the interaction of genes and the environment on children’s health, this national collaborative effort includes 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. When it is fully operational, the study is expected to include from 36 to 50 study centers in the planned 105 study locations throughout the United States.

The Pacific Northwest Center for the National Children’s Study was initiated in 2007 to enroll participants in King County, Washington. As part of the King County study location, the UW has partnered with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and 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 plans announced today by NIH give approval to the Pacific Northwest Center for the National Children’s Study to partner with Oregon Health & Science University and Marion County communities, and Washington State University, Grant County Health District, Quincy Community Health Center and Grant County communities in two additional study locations in the Pacific Northwest.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to partner with communities in order to help children and families across Washington, Oregon, and throughout the U.S. to shape child health guidance, interventions, and policy for generations to come,” said Elaine Faustman, director of the study center and professor in the UW Dept. of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences. The lead investigator for the Marion County location is Dr. Gail Houck. Dr. Patricia Butterfield is the lead investigator for the Grant County location.

“Our WSU team is excited to be partnering with UW to work in Grant County and to be collaborating with our local partners, WSU Extension, Grant County Health District, and Promotores de Salud in Quincy,” said Butterfield, professor and dean of the Washington State University College of Nursing. “As a scientist, a citizen, and a parent, I am committed to doing all we can to contribute to the success of this remarkable study of children’s health.” The WSU study center office will be housed in the WSU-Spokane College of Nursing.

“Dr. Bill Lambert, co-investigator, and I look forward to partnering with the UW and WSU as part of the Pacific Northwest Center for the National Children’s Study,” said Houck, professor of Academic Graduate and Interdisciplinary Programs at Oregon Health & Science University’s School of Nursing. “We are pleased to be collaborating with the Commission on Children and Families and the Public Health Department of Marion County. It is a tremendous opportunity to be a part this national effort to understand and influence the health of children and their families.”

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, which is housed in the UW School of Public Health and Community Medicine.

The National Children’s Study 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. In the Pacific Northwest, plans are underway to recruit over 4,000 participants at four study locations. 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.

The 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. This announcement builds on the momentum of earlier major Study milestones, including the release of the Study Plan and Study locations in 2004, the establishment in 2005 of the first 7 Study Centers, referred to as Vanguard Centers, and the announcement of 22 Study Centers in 2007.

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.