<p>The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has awarded Brown University a $12-million contract to expand its participation in the National Children’s Study. Brown will partner with Women &amp; Infants Hospital of Rhode Island and others to enroll 1,000 families from Bristol County, Mass., in the study and follow them from before birth to age 21 to identify genetic and environmental factors that contribute to health disorders and conditions of childhood and adulthood. The researchers were awarded a $14.1-million contract for work in Providence County in October 2007.</p>

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown University, with lead partner Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, has been awarded a $12-million, five-year contract to expand its participation in the National Children’s Study, a groundbreaking research project aimed at improving child health.

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), one of the 27 Institutes and Centers at the National Institutes of Health, announced the award today. The grant enables researchers to add 1,000 families from Bristol County, Mass., along with the previously funded study of 1,000 families from Providence County, R.I., whose children will be studied for the next 21 years.

Exactly one year ago, Brown and Women & Infants announced that they had been selected as one of 22 new centers that would take part in the National Children’s Study, the largest long-term study of children’s health and development ever conducted in the United States. With the announcement today of this additional award, researchers will now partner with providers at Southcoast Health System’s Charlton Memorial Hospital in Fall River and St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford, as well as Morton Hospital and Medical Center in Taunton and Sturdy Memorial Hospital in Attleboro. Researchers are hoping to establish satellite offices at Bristol Community College campuses to make it more convenient to meet with study participants.

“We are most appreciative and proud of this NIH award, especially given the increasingly competitive environment for federal research funding,” said Edward Wing, M.D., dean of medicine and biological sciences at Brown. “Not only does this help advance the meaningful partnerships we have in Southeastern New England between Rhode Island and Massachusetts, but it also provides tangible evidence of national recognition of the excellence in public health, medicine, and research of the Brown faculty and our colleagues at Women & Infants Hospital.”

“The National Children’s Study has the potential to improve the overall health status of children, and Women & Infants is truly honored to be a part of such groundbreaking work,” said Constance A. Howes, president and CEO of Women & Infants Hospital. “This expansion into Bristol County enables our researchers to look at the unique environmental factors that may impact the health and well-being of the residents of those communities.”

Principal investigator of these projects is Stephen L. Buka, professor of community health at Brown and director of the Center for Population Health and Clinical Epidemiology. Co-principal investigator is Maureen G. Phipps, M.D., director of the Division of Research in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Women & Infants and associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology and community health at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.  

At a national level, the National Children’s Study will enroll a representative sample of 100,000 infants and follow them from before birth to age 21. Modeled after major long-term biomedical research projects such as the Women’s Health Initiative, the National Children’s Study takes advantage of observations unfolding over many years to better understand the development of certain diseases. Researchers hope to identify the root causes of diseases such as asthma, autism, and diabetes, as well as to gain a better understanding of injuries, birth defects, and learning, behavioral, and mental health disorders.

Locally, investigators will interview a random sample of more than 10,000 households each in Providence and Bristol counties.  Recruitment is scheduled to begin in 2010.

A research team will visit families beginning in the first trimester of pregnancy or earlier.  Some of these visits will be in participants’ homes, and some will be in clinical settings. Data will also be collected via telephone, computer or mail-in questionnaires.  Biological samples from the mother, father and child, as well as air, water, soil and dust from the child’s environment will be collected.

Additional information – from a family health history to details of a child’s diet to their access to parks – will also be gathered to determine the relationship between biological, chemical, physical and psychosocial exposures and pregnancy and birth outcomes, child development, and medical conditions. Preliminary findings from the local cohort studies will be available by 2012.

With several active research partners, the National Children’s Study has a broad base of supporters in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, including the congressional delegation.

“I am pleased that this important study will be extended to communities in Bristol County," said Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.). “This type of long-range research will contribute in a positive way to the ongoing effort to improve the health care of children in Southeastern Massachusetts. The fact that the work will be done in partnership with some of the area’s leading hospitals will help ensure that the results are of the highest quality.”

Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) said, “The announcement that Brown University and Women & Infants Hospital have been awarded an additional contract to launch a second site as part of the National Children’s Study is fantastic news for Rhode Island and Bristol County. This landmark national study will be the foundation for assessing and addressing children’s health issues for generations to come. Congress authorized this national research project to study the biological, social, genetic and environmental causes of numerous diseases, birth defects, and behavioral and mental health disorders. This collaborative research approach will serve to guide future public health policies while also providing researchers with comprehensive data to help discover new treatments and preventive measures. I commend these two institutions on this outstanding achievement.”

“I am delighted that National Children’s Study is expanding into Bristol County, Massachusetts,” said Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.). “The more we learn about how our children grow and develop, the better equipped our health care system can be to keep them healthy and happy in their formative years and beyond. I commend all those who helped secure this additional contract and look forward to tracking the progress of this study in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts.”

“The National Children’s Study is a vital initiative that Congress year after year has saved from administration efforts to sabotage it,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).  “I’m glad Brown University and Women & Infants Hospital, through their role in this groundbreaking study, will help further our understanding of many chronic illnesses that affect children and their families.”

For more information about the National Children’s Study, visit www.nationalchildrensstudy.gov.