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The National Children’s Study (NCS) will examine the effects of environmental influences on the health and development of more than 100,000 children across the United States, following them from before birth until age 21. The goal of the study is to improve the health and well-being of children.

This study is led by a consortium of federal agency partners: the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (including two components of the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences [NIEHS]), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The study defines "environment" broadly and will take a number of issues into account, including:

  • Natural and man-made environment factors
  • Biological and chemical factors
  • Physical surroundings
  • Social factors
  • Behavioral influences and outcomes
  • Genetics
  • Cultural and family influences and differences
  • Geographic locations

Researchers will analyze how these elements interact with each other and what helpful and/or harmful effects they might have on children’s health. By studying children through their different phases of growth and development, researchers will be better able to understand the role of these factors on health and disease. The NCS aims to enroll at least 25 percent of the women in the study before they become pregnant, to get as much information as possible about the prenatal environment of the children subsequently enrolled in the study. Findings from the study will be made available as soon as possible as the research progresses, within a few years after the study begins.

The study will also allow scientists to find the differences that exist between groups of people, in terms of their health, health care access, disease occurrence, and other issues, so that these differences or disparities can be addressed.

The National Children’s Study will be the largest study of children's health ever conducted in the U.S. The NCS will serve as one of the richest information resources available for answering questions related to children’s health and development and will form the basis of child health guidance, interventions, and policy for generations to come. It is anticipated that the preliminary results from the first years of the study will be available in 2009-2010.

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