A comprehensive study that can potentially provide groundbreaking insight into the health of children has launched in Wayne County. The National Children’s Study is the largest and most long-term research study conducted on children in the United States. The goal of the study is to improve the health and well-being of children and contribute to understanding the role various factors have on health and disease.
The Michigan Alliance for the National Children’s Study (MANCS) is conducting the study locally. MANCS is an organization of scientists and doctors from Henry Ford Health System, the Michigan Department of Community Health, Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University and its affiliated Children’s Hospital of Michigan. In Wayne County, the Michigan Alliance is collaborating with the Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion and Wayne County Health and Human Services. Five counties in Michigan will participate in the study, including Genesee, Grand Traverse, Lenawee, Macomb and Wayne.
The National Children’s Study is the most concerted effort of its kind that aims to examine environmental factors as they relate to diseases that are becoming increasingly prevalent among children, including autism, diabetes, asthma and obesity. The study is being funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institutes of Health.
The National Children’s Study will follow children from birth until age 21, during which time researchers will gather information that will assist them in identifying factors that affect the health and development of children. The study focuses particularly on the everyday factors that may potentially impact health, including the air children breathe, the food and water they consume, and the areas where they live, play and attend school.
The MANCS principal investigator, Dr. Nigel Paneth, heads the research at Michigan State University. Paneth, who is a pediatrician and perinatal epidemiologist, claims that this study will delve into areas of children’s health that past research has failed to thoroughly address.
“We have done nothing to reduce the frequency of premature birth, nor have we made much progress in preventing birth defects or autism or mental retardation or asthma or cerebral palsy or juvenile diabetes. All of these disorders continue at the same levels of frequency as 50 years ago,” said Paneth.
“The goal of the study is not actually to learn how to cure or manage these diseases. The goal of the children’s study is to learn how to prevent these diseases,” Paneth stated.
“Nationally, we spend billions to treat childhood conditions such as cerebral palsy, birth defects, autism and asthma. Until now, we have never supported large scale research across the nation that examines the conditions and factors that influence a child’s health before, during and after birth,” Paneth continued. “The National Children’s Study has the potential to discover ways to improve the overall health and well-being of children and to prevent disease, helping to guide health practice, clinical interventions and health policy for future generations.”
Mona Farroukh, coordinator of Child and Adolescent Health at the Arab Center for Community Education and Social Services (ACCESS), serves on the MANCS Community Advisory Board. She said that this study is of particular importance to Arab Americans in that it will give researchers insight on the health issues that affect the Arab American community locally and across the nation.
“As a health care prevention provider at ACCESS, I noticed a pattern of certain health issues in the Arab American community,” said Farroukh.
“I always wonder why people who came from a specific region of the Middle East have common health problems among their young children,” continued Farroukh. “The results of this study will help health and social service providers recognize the preventable factors in children’s health and educate the community to stay healthy for generations to come.”
The study is currently enrolling women who are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant. Women who live in certain neighborhoods in Wayne County may be able to join. Many women who live in eligible neighborhoods are introduced to the study by their health care providers.
To learn more about the Michigan Alliance for the National Children’s Study, visit: //www.mancs.us or //www.nationalchildrensstuy.gov. Women who are interested in participating are encouraged to call the Michigan Alliance for the National Children’s Study at: 1.888.996.4627.