Loma Linda University chosen as study center in unparalleled children’s health study
A landmark nationwide study that will track 105,000 children across the United States—including 1,000 in San Bernardino County—will keep track of what they eat, drink, touch, and breathe from birth until age 21. Other information to be studied includes some of the nation’s most pressing health problems, such as autism, birth defects, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Loma Linda University and California State University, San Bernardino, have 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 for the local region.
The two institutions will partner to lead the San Bernardino County study center, which will manage local participant recruitment and data collection in the largest study of child and human health ever conducted in the United States.
The San Bernardino County center is one of 22 new study centers of the National Children’s Study, a collaborative effort between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (including the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at the National Institutes of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the Environmental Protection Agency.
“This is an unparalleled study,” says Jayakaran S. Job, MD, associate professor in the Schools of Public Health and Medicine, one of the principal investigators for the study. “It takes into account a range of factors such as genetic, cultural, biological, and social—how often they see a doctor and the safety of their neighborhoods.”
“As the largest long-term study of children’s health and development ever to be conducted in the United States, the National Children’s Study is unprecedented in scope and magnitude,” says B. Lyn Behrens, MBBS, president and chief executive officer, Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences Center.
“We are delighted to collaborate with California State University, San Bernardino, in this historic effort, which is going to have a significant impact both locally and nationally. We are also pleased to partner with the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, First 5 of San Bernardino, the Children’s Network, and various hospitals and health care providers, and numerous other local organizations in the region.”
Principal investigators include Dr. Job, and Kimberley Lakes, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics, University of California, Irvine, and former associate director for the Institute for Child Development and Family Relations, California State University, San Bernardino.
Other investigators on the local team are Richard Chinnock, MD, chair, department of pediatrics, LLU Children’s Hospital; Bryan Oshiro, MD, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, LLU School of Medicine; Sybil Carrere, PhD, director, Institute of Child Development and Family Relations, California State University, San Bernardino; Pramil Singh, DrPH, associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics, Loma Linda University School of Public Health; and Seth Wiafe, MPH, GIS specialist, Loma Linda University School of Public Health.
“What we learn will help not only children and families in San Bernardino County, but it will help children across the U.S.,” says Dr. Lakes. “This will help shape child health guidance, interventions, and policy for generations to come.”
Dr. Job says that the results will be worth the wait because it will give health care practitioners a wealth of data to use in developing strategies to combat chronic disorders at an early age.
“Unlike other studies, the National Children’s Study will include children, their families, and communities from different parts of the country—from different backgrounds including ethnic, racial, social, economic, religious—that make up the very diverse American populations,” says Dr. Job.
Initially, researchers will first recruit women who are pregnant or likely to have a child in the near future, follow their prenatal health, and collect information on their pregnancies including diets, environments, stress, and chemical exposures. When the children are born, and periodically thereafter, researchers will track these children over the next 21 years of their lives, and also collect biological and environmental samples.
The study relies on a unique, overarching public-private partnership involving government agencies, public organizations, private companies, universities, academic and professional societies, health care institutions, private groups, and most importantly, communities, according to Dr. Job.
Results of the study will be made public as the study progresses. Even though the study spans more than two decades, researchers will begin to analyze data as soon as it is collected and will release findings as children in the study reach certain developmental milestones.
The National Children’s Study began in 2000 under the Children’s Health Act. Congress directed the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to launch a thorough probe of children as they grow, tracking how they are affected by environment.
The federally funded study will cost about $2.7 billion over 25 years. Congress appropriated $69 million this year to set up study centers and begin recruiting.
By Richard Weismeyer