09/30/05 — Duplin picked for study 21-year study of babies, children

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Duplin picked for study 21-year study of babies, children

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on September 30, 2005 1:51 PM

KENANSVILLE -- Duplin County will be the only location in North Carolina, and one of six in the country, taking part in a national study that will track children from the womb to age 21, federal researchers say.

The National Institutes of Health released the names of the targeted counties for the National Children's Study Thursday. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is one of the research universities that will follow a total of 100,000 children, beginning in 2007.

Other participating universities will include the University of California at Irvine, the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Children's Hospital and Drexel University in Pennsylvania, the University of Utah and the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Medical College of Wisconsin.

The universities will study about 100 rural and urban locations. The plan is to enroll 1,500 women in early pregnancy in each of the six counties. The scientists will record environmental exposures during pregnancy and the children's everyday lives to find the answers to such questions as whether genetics or pollution cause asthma or whether certain chemicals increase the risk of learning disabilities or autism.

Nursing Director Beth Ricci at the Duplin County Health Department said the researchers tried to pick communities that represent the entire racial and socio-economic mix in the country. They also looked for places with a high number of babies born with low birth weight risk, which puts them in danger of developing other health problems.

She said Duke University has been very involved in research into early birth weight and other factors that affect the health of babies and children.

"We've not received information yet, and we won't be the only ones involved," Ms. Ricci said. She said other community agencies will also participate, including the Duplin Partners for Health, Duplin General Hospital and local physicians' offices.

"We'll be trying to recruit women who would want to take part in it. It's going to be a long-term study, from pregnancy to age 21," she said. "The Health Department won't follow the children 21 years. We're just seeing who would want to participate."

Ms. Ricci said community meetings will likely be conducted during which women will hear what it would be like for them and their child to participate in the study.