PAWTUCKET — Attention local pregnant women: you and your child can take part in a study that could make medical history.
The National Children's Study Rhode Island is looking at how children's health and development are affected by their family history and the social, natural, and physical environment of the places where they live, learn and play. As such, they are looking for 1,000 Rhode Islanders to take part in an important national study that will track children's development from before birth until the age of 21 to look at key health issues.
Administered by Women and Infants Hospital and Brown University, this study will follow 100,000 children for 21 years. It is part of the largest national study of children in United State's history, where women and families will join together to contribute information aimed at furthering scientists' understanding of many conditions and health problems.
Among the Rhode Island communities that have been selected to participate are Pawtucket, Cumberland, Woonsocket, North Providence, Johnston, North Smithfield, Providence and Burrillville. Community health centers as well as private Ob-Gyn doctors and practitioners have been asked to inform pregnant women of the national study and to provide contact information on where to sign up.
Joining the study involves providing information through periodic interviews or visits with members of the study team before and during the pregnancy, as the child grows up. Participants will receive $25 at each study visit and they will not be asked to take any medicine or to change anything that they do. Taking part in the study is voluntary and participants can stop at any time.
To learn more about the study, interested participants are asked to contact the National Children's Study Rhode Island by e-mail at NCS@brown.edu , by calling 1-800-806-4844 or by visiting the website at www.ncsri.org .
On Monday morning, a press conference to announce the study was held at the Blackstone Valley Community Health's dental office at 210 Main St. in Pawtucket. Stephen Buka, principal investigator on the National Children's Study and a professor of community health at Brown University, spoke of how important the scope of the project is for gaining insight into children's health issues. He said the findings from the study will ultimately provide the basis for childhood disease prevention strategies, future health and safety guidelines and potential new treatments.
Buka said that by tracking children's development through infancy, childhood and early adulthood, the study hopes to determine the causes of many childhood and adult diseases. As the study progresses, scientists will learn a lot about children's health and why some children are more likely than others to get certain diseases when they are young and when they grow up.
Some of the health issues that will be examined to see if there is a link between children's environments and their health and well-being include birth defects and pregnancy-related problems, injuries, asthma, obesity, diabetes, and behavior, learning and mental health disorders.
“Only through a study of this type can we get a clear idea of the factors impacting children,” said Buka. Douglas Hadden, director of constituent services and communications for Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien, said the mayor considered the event to mark “an important day in the history of children's health” in Rhode Island and in Pawtucket, thanks to the upcoming participation in the largest, long-term study of its kind of children's health and development.
Hadden noted that according to data released last year by RI Kids Count, more than one in four Pawtucket children were in families with incomes below the poverty line and one-third of those within the definition of extreme poverty. Also, Pawtucket's overall teen birth rate for females was almost double the overall rate in Rhode Island, and the city's hospitalization rate for asthma and lead poisoning, which Kids Count related to housing quality and health care access, also exceeded state averages.
Speaking on behalf of Grebien, Hadden said that the mayor “urges anyone in the city who is eligible to participate in this study to strongly consider stepping forward to take part.” He added that Grebien, as mayor, stated that he “warmly welcomes this project” and pledges to provide whatever assistance and cooperation he can to assure it achieves its goals.
Ray Lavoie, executive director of the Blackstone Valley Community Health, also spoke of the importance of the national project and said the BVCH's staff was pleased to be taking part in and helping to promote participation in the study.