CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been selected as a study center in the National Children's Study, according to a National Institutes of Health announcement Thursday.
The study, which the NIH calls the largest of its kind ever conducted in the United States, will measure the effects of environmental, social, biological and behavioral factors on child health.
Nationwide, 22 newly funded study centers will recruit more than 26,000 children in 26 study locations around the country. Ultimately, 100,000 children will be enrolled as more study locations are added over the next few years.
UNC will focus its work on Rockingham County, which borders the Virginia state line north of Greensboro. The county was chosen by the NIH to provide an accurate profile of the country, based on income, education level, race, ethnicity, urban vs. rural environments and other factors.
The study will begin enrolling pregnant women in the summer of 2009.
"This is the best way to get an understanding of the complex environment in which children and their families live," said Entwisle, who is also Kenan Professor of sociology in UNC's College of Arts & Sciences. The goal is to enroll enough women to ensure 250 live births each year for four years and follow those children through age 21.
Obesity, heart disease, asthma and autism are some of the diseases and disorders the researchers hope to learn more about. They will collect information from families about their health, their activities and their neighborhoods. They will also measure air and water quality at home and in schools, and collect various biological samples.
A key component of the study will be working with communities before and during the recruitment of study participants, said Nancy Dole, Ph.D., deputy director of the Carolina Population Center and co-principal investigator of the study.
"Members of the community need to know about the study and understand why it is being done so that families feel comfortable with it and are excited about being a part of this important work," said Dole, who is also an adjunct professor of epidemiology in UNC's School of Public Health.
UNC will receive $15.43 million over the next five years for the study. The university will establish an office in Rockingham County and staff will be hired to assist the researchers, Dole said.