Brown has been selected from a pool of applicants to receive a five-year, $12 million grant that will nearly double its research contribution to the National Children’s Study, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development announced last week.
The National Children’s Study is a countrywide examination of childhood health aimed at the prevention of several key health concerns, including diabetes, obesity, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, birth defects and injuries.
The University, along with its lead partner, Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, applied successfully last year for an NCS grant and received $14 million to conduct research in Providence County.
With this additional $12 million, the University can expand data collection into nearby Bristol County, Mass.
“This grant allows the University … to partake in a national, cutting-edge research initiative,” Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences Edward Wing wrote in an e-mail to The Herald. “When we engage on this level, we attract the best faculty and students to Brown.”
Researchers for each county will enroll 1,000 pregnant women and track the health of the newborns until age 21, focusing on how environmental influences that surround children, such as water, soil and air, affect their well-being. They also will gather biological information from the parents. Data collection is slated to begin in 2010 for Providence County and 2011 for Bristol County.
“Right now it’s very much … getting to know the counties so that we can be informed,” said Maureen Phipps, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology and a lead researcher on the project. “We have been getting to know the communities … and looking at each neighborhood and their characteristics.”
Once collection begins, Brown faculty and students will be able to access the data and help in its analysis.
“We want (the project) also to be seen as a chance for students to learn from participating in this type of groundbreaking study,” Phipps said.
“What we see as the six most important childhood health conditions … cost America $640 billion each year, so it’s terrific that the government wants to try something very large and ambitious … to reduce the burden on families and the nation as a whole,” said Professor of Community Health Stephen Buka, a lead researcher on the project and director of the Center for Population Health and Clinical Epidemiology.