I had the privilege of attending the kick-off ceremony for the National Children’s Study in Wayne County, yesterday, Jan. 26, at the Detroit Athletic Club. The study has been launching at different times in different counties across the U.S. for the past three months. Wayne County is considered one of the initial or “vanguard” counties where the first phase of the study is being initiated.
The National Children’s Study will be the largest and most detailed study focused on children’s health and development in the history of the United States. The study will examine the effects of environment, as broadly defined to include factors such as air, water, diet, sound, family dynamics, community and cultural influences, and genetics, on the growth, development and health of more than 100,000 children across the U.S., following them from before birth to age 21. The goal of the study is to improve the health and well-being of children and to contribute to an understanding of the role of the environment in the development of health and disease. Ultimately, this understanding should help us to prevent maladies such as cerebral palsy, premature birth, autism and others.
The Michigan Alliance for the National Children’s Study (MANCS), a coalition of researchers and physicians from major health and academic institutions, is conducting the study in Michigan. These institutions include Michigan State University, Wayne State University, the University of Michigan, the Michigan Department of Community Health, Detroit Medical Center, Children’s Hospital of Michigan and the Henry Ford Health System. Dr. Nigel Paneth, University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at MSU, leads MANCS with an executive committee of researchers from each institution. Dr. Jean Kerver is study coordinator.
Michigan State University Extension is working with Drs. Paneth and Kerver as part of the collaboration. Dr. Steve Lovejoy, MSUE associate director, is a co-investigator on the project. Dr. Lovejoy and Lisa Tams, MSU Extension educator, have been on the community outreach and engagement team and have helped lay the foundation for the study in Wayne County. They have done a tremendous amount of work in order to see the study come to fruition. One of MSUE’s primary roles is to lead the effort in recruiting prospective mothers from the study area to participate in the research study. Lisa is working closely with medical professionals across Wayne County who provide care to women of childbearing age and to children. Lisa and Steve are joined in the community outreach group by Dr. Bob Brown, associate director of University-Community Partnerships, MSU Outreach and Engagement.
The study will take place in four additional counties in Michigan – Genesee, Grand Traverse, Lenawee and Macomb. These counties will be phased in over the next few years. MSUE will play the same role in community outreach and engagement in these counties as we are in Wayne.
MSUE also has representation on the Community Advisory Board for the study, with Dr. George Rowan, professor in the Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies, and Gerrylynn McNeal, Extension program associate from Wayne County, serving as two of the 17 board members.
We look forward to working and building capacity for the study in Michigan for years to come and appreciate Steve’s and Lisa’s leadership in making sure that the study benefits from MSUE’s unique role in communities.