NATION Kids' health study begins

The study is planned to last about 25 years.
PHILADELPHIA -- The federal government launched its most ambitious study Thursday of the health of America's children, with the plan to follow more than 100,000 from womb to adulthood.
The National Children's Study, which will start in six communities nationwide, will explore the many environmental influences that bear on children's well-being.
About the study
The study, which will begin enrolling participants in 2007, will look not only at traditional environmental factors such as air and water pollution, but also at issues such as neighborhood safety, family relationships and diet. It will examine the connection between environmental and genetic factors.
The study, projected to cost $2.7 billion over about 25 years if fully implemented, also will attempt to explain racial and ethnic disparities; for instance, why black babies are more likely than white babies to be born prematurely and underweight, and why American Indian children are at high risk for diabetes and injuries.
The ultimate goal of the research is to prevent diseases and come up with better ways to treat them, federal health officials said.
"In their search for environmental influences in human health, researchers plan to examine such factors as the food children eat, the air they breathe, their schools and neighborhoods, how often they see a health-care provider and even the composition of the house dust in their homes," Duane Alexander, director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, said at a Washington news conference Thursday.
Research centers
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in conjunction with Drexel University College of Medicine will serve as one of six research centers for the study's initial phase.
About 1,250 Montgomery County, Pa., women and their babies will be enrolled in the study, said Jennifer Culhane, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Drexel. She will help direct the study in this region, along with Donald Schwarz, adolescent medicine chief at Children's Hospital. The institutions are getting $1 million to plan the study and could receive $13 million over five years for the research, Culhane said.
The study, a joint effort of several federal agencies, could eventually include children from 105 counties around the country.
The study comes amid growing concern that today's children are growing fat and coming down with diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure that used to be considered adult worries.

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