Pitt’s GSPH Takes Key Role in National Child Health Survey

Issue Date: 
October 15, 2007

Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH) has been selected to be part of a national study assessing the effects of environmental and genetic factors on child and human health in the United States.

The University of Pittsburgh is one of 22 new study centers of the National Children’s Study, a collaborative effort between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Each study center will manage local participant recruitment and data collection in the largest study of child and human health ever conducted in the United States.

The Pittsburgh study locations will focus on communities in Westmoreland County, Pa., and Marion County, W.Va. In those counties, selected women of reproductive age will be invited to participate in this long-term assessment of their environment, their health, and the health of their future children.

“What we learn will help not only children and families in Pennsylvania, but will help children across the United States and shape child health guidance, interventions, and policy for generations to come,” said Roberta B. Ness, chair of the Department of Epidemiology in GSPH and principal investigator of the Pittsburgh study center.

The National Children’s Study eventually will follow a representative sample of 100,000 children from before birth to age 21, seeking information to prevent and treat some of the nation’s most pressing health problems, including autism, birth defects, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Pitt’s schools of the health sciences are considered national leaders in maternal child health research. Previous contributions have included studies enhancing understanding of the determinants of preeclampsia and preterm delivery in pregnancy; diabetes and delinquency in children and adolescents; and best treatments for otitis media and other childhood conditions.

The National Children’s Study began in response to the Children’s Health Act of 2000, when Congress directed the NICHD and other federal agencies to undertake a national, long-term study of children’s health and development in relation to environmental exposures.

In total, the study will be conducted in 105 previously designated study locations across the United States that together are representative of the entire U.S. population. A national probability sample was used to select the counties in the study, which took into account factors including race and ethnicity, income, education level, number of births, and number of babies born with low birth weights.