Saint Louis University

ST. LOUIS - The National Children's Study, the largest study ever conducted in the United States to learn about the health and development of children, is beginning in St. Louis.

Louise Flick, DrPH, is principal investigator for the National Children’s Study Gateway Study Center and professor of epidemiology at Saint Louis University School of Public Health.

Led locally by Saint Louis University School of Public Health, the study will follow more than 100,000 children from before birth until age 21 from diverse backgrounds and communities across the United States. It will examine the effects of the environment and genetics on the growth, development and health of children.

"The ultimate goal of the study is to improve the health and well-being of children. We believe the National Children's Study will guide public health policies and the treatment of children for generations to come," said Louise Flick, DrPH, principal investigator for the National Children's Study Gateway Study Center and professor of epidemiology at Saint Louis University School of Public Health.

Washington University in St. Louis, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and Battelle Center for Public Health Research and Evaluation, St. Louis Office, are collaborating partners on the research in the region.

Carrying identification badges and driving cars marked with the National Children's Study logo, in the coming weeks workers from Battelle will go door-to-door in selected St. Louis neighborhoods as they identify women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant and would like their children to be part of the study. Ultimately, more than 1,000 children from the city will be sought for the research, which will last for more than 21 years.

Part of the Gateway Study Center, the City of St. Louis was randomly selected as one of the pilot sites that will enroll children in 2010 because it represents an urban area.

Children from Jefferson County, Mo.; Macoupin County, Ill.; and Johnson/Union/Williamson counties, Ill.; which are other communities in the Gateway Study Center, will be recruited in 2012 as the study expands nationally to include a total of 105 study locations. Ultimately, more than 4,000 children from the Gateway Study Center will be sought for the research.

"The study will examine how children's health is affected by many factors, including their family health history and places where they live, learn and play," said Allison King, M.D., MPH, co-principal investigator at Washington University.

"Some of those factors occur prior to conception or during the first trimester of pregnancy, which is why we're studying children before birth. The consequences of other factors, such as environmental exposure, may take a lot of time to develop, which is why the study lasts until participants are 21 years old."

The study gathers information and environmental and genetic materials, such as samples of drinking water or strands of hair. Families in the study will provide information and samples during meetings with the study team staff before and during pregnancy and after birth, as the child grows up.

"The National Children's Study observes what is already happening in a child's life and doesn't introduce experimental treatments," said Laura Bernaix, Ph.D., co-principal investigator from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. "Researchers are gathering information during regular visits, which will occur less often over time."

The National Children's Study is funded by the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency. As the lead regional site, Saint Louis University School of Public Health was awarded a total of $53.1 million to conduct the research. The bulk of the funding supports information gathering.

For more information about the study, visit www.nationalchildrensstudy.gov or call (314) 302-2824 or (866) 559-0928.

Accredited for 19 years, Saint Louis University School of Public Health remains the only accredited school of public health in Missouri. It is one of 42 fully accredited public health schools in the U.S. and the only accredited Jesuit school in the nation.

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