Recently, Orange County was announced as one of the first six study centers for the National Children’s Study, a 25-year, 100,000-subject medical study almost unprecedented in size.
With a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, UC Irvine will work with Children’s Hospital of Orange County, the Children and Families Commission of Orange County and the County of Orange Health Care Agency as one of the first study centers, termed Vanguard Centers, on refining the protocol for the monumental project to study the development of diseases.
Pathik D. Wadhwa, an assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at UCI and one of the co-principal investigators of the study, explained that the goal of the study is ‘to arrive at a better understanding of the concept of developmental origins of health and disease by uncovering mechanisms through which the early environment influences the structure and function of a developing organism.’
The study, which will begin enrolling subjects in July 2007, will monitor children from before birth until age 21 and record environmental factors ranging from chemical exposures to social and behavioral environments.
Once consenting adults with a high potential for pregnancy have been identified, samples of their environments, such as dust, water and air, will be taken to determine what factors can affect a child’s health, even before conception.
Dean Baker, another co-principal investigator and director of the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, is responsible for the community-based aspects of the study.
‘This study is what I’ve been doing for the past 20 years,’ Baker said. ‘There has been broader interest in children’s environmental health in Los Angeles.’
Over the past five years, the input of approximately 2,000 people and $40 million have been invested on the national level in creating a preliminary protocol for the study, which promises to be one of the largest medical studies ever undertaken.
Baker sees financing as one of the major concerns as the study begins.
‘In order for the study to be so large, the cost has to be carefully controlled,’ Baker said. ‘The best way to do monitoring