Select San Diego residents can expect a different kind of solicitor at their door soon: one inquiring if they are pregnant or plan to become pregnant in the near future.
This community campaign started in San Diego last week and is held in support of the National Children’s Study, an effort that plans to recruit more than 100,000 children nationally and 1,000 locally for observation in the first 21 years of their lives.
The study is headed locally at both San Diego State and University of California San Diego, examining biological, environmental and physical factors in hopes to provide answers to plaguing childhood health issues.
“We don’t know why there are increasing rates of autism, we don’t know exactly why there are increasing rates for asthma, we don’t know what some of the protective or predictive factors are for things like childhood obesity, diabetes or mental illness,” co-principle investigator from UCSD, Dr. Christina Chambers, said. “So all of those things fall under the large area of research where we have been limited in our ability to find answers.”
The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, along with many other federal agencies, is conducting the study in 105 counties across the United States.
“It provides an incredible level of prestige because this is the largest child development study ever conducted anywhere in the world, and the first of its sort obviously in the nation as well,” SDSU’s director of the Center for Behavioral Epidemiology and Community Health and the study’s other co-principle investigator, Dr. Melbourne Hovell, said.
The universities’ collaboration allows them to split duties, with SDSU responsible for recruitment and cohort retention, and UCSD in charge of hospital and delivery visits by nursing specialists in the early stages of research, Hovell stated.
“This has a huge positive impact on the research mission and the community engagement mission of both universities,” Chambers said.
Even women who plan to become pregnant are eligible for the study, but participation is limited because volunteers must live in specific San Diego neighborhoods that are representative of the diversity of the United States.
Those wishing to participate can inquire their eligibility status by calling the study center.
According to the NCS website, participants can leave the study at any time as well as return, but children subject to the research must assent at age 7, the “age of reason,” and consent at age 18.
The campaign not only provides new research about San Diego residents, but also volunteer and job opportunities.
Research assistants and other medical professionals can be hired for the project while the community outreach operation is in need of volunteers, Hovell explained.
“The one thing we are concerned about is that the study become a community participatory kind of study, that means we need people in the local community to help,” Hovell said.