UMASS MEDICAL SCHOOL AWARDED NATIONAL CHILDREN’S STUDY CONTRACT
Landmark 20-year study to provide insight into long-term impact of environmental and genetic factors on children’s health and development

October 4, 2007

WORCESTER, Mass.—The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) announced today that the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) was awarded a competitive contract to participate in the landmark National Children’s Study (NCS), the largest study to be conducted in the United States to assess the effects of environmental and genetic factors on child and human health. The study will follow 100,000 children from before birth to age 21, seeking information to prevent and treat some of the nation’s most pressing health problems, including autism, birth defects, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

“This is a watershed moment for UMass Medical School as the Commonwealth’s research institution,” said Terry R. Flotte, MD, executive deputy chancellor of UMMS and dean of the School of Medicine. “We have long held public health as our passion and our obligation, and we are exceptionally proud to be chosen as one of a select few to make such an important contribution to the body of knowledge related to child health and development. This contract award is a testament to the Medical School’s demonstrated ability to conduct exceptional public health and epidemiological research and our capacity to engage the community in this study.”

 

 

“UMMS is uniquely positioned to accept this charge from the NICHD in part because of the partnerships we have established throughout the community and the trust we have earned over decades of caring for families and children,” said Marianne E. Felice, MD, chair of pediatrics for UMMS and physician-in-chief of UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center. Felice is the principal investigator of the UMMS arm of the NCS, which will be known as the Massachusetts Children’s Health Indicators and Life Determinants study (MassCHILD). “Many of our faculty are already recognized in the community for the important public health research they have conducted, and we believe parents will work enthusiastically with us on this study. We’re delighted that families of Worcester County will be able to contribute to the health of the nation for generations to come.  Furthermore, by being participants in this prestigious study, we may be able to identify solutions to issues of children’s health that are important to us in this area, such as infant mortality.”

UMMS is one of 29 new study centers of the NCS, which began in response to the Children’s Health Act of 2000, when Congress directed the NICHD and other federal agencies to undertake a national, long-term study of children’s health and development in relation to environmental exposures. Through the NCS, contracted centers will collect a broad range of biological and environmental samples and data to generate a comprehensive database of material that will provide researchers, health care providers and public health officials with information from which to develop preventive strategies and health and safety guidelines. Data will be collected in 105 specific previously designated counties in the U.S.  There are only two counties in Massachusetts that qualify for the NCS —Worcester and Bristol counties—but the current funding is only designated for Worcester County.  The 105 counties were selected through a national probability sample that took into account factors such as race and ethnicity, income, education level, number of births, and number of births of low birth weight babies, and together are representative of the entire U.S. population.

The Medical School’s contract represents more than $16 million for the first five-year phase, during which UMMS will begin recruiting and training the equivalent of 88 full-time staff and working with community leaders in preparation for opening enrollment into the study in the summer of 2009.  Funding for the 22 study centers and the study’s initial phase is a result of a $69 million appropriation from Congress in fiscal year 2007.  Funding is expected to increase for subsequent phases over the life of the study.  Additional contracts are to be awarded at a later date, but will probably total no more than 35 to 40 centers to collect data from all 105 counties. UMMS will work with faculty from Clark University for their expertise in geographic information systems, which will be instrumental in household selection for the survey. Each study site, or county, is expected to enroll 1,000 participants in four years, which will likely require identification of more than 13,000 households in which there may be pregnant women in the first trimester of pregnancy or women who could become pregnant in the next year.  In fact, 25 percent of the children are to be identified before they are even conceived.

Additional UMMS faculty serving on the MassCHILD team are Thomas McLaughlin, ScD (Co-Principal Investigator); Onesky Aupont, MD, PhD (Operations Manager and Co-Investigator); Katherine Luzuriaga, MD (Co-Investigator); Janet Hardy, PhD (Co-Investigator); Tiffany Moore-Simas, MD, MPH (Co-Investigator); and Judith Ockene, PhD, MEd, MA (Co-Investigator).   

In addition to UMMS, 21 other study centers were named today, representing 25 other study locations: Brown University (Providence, R.I.); Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (Schuylkill, Pa., and New Castle, Del.); Emory University (DeKalb and Fayette Counties, Ga.); Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, Md.); Michigan State University (Wayne County, Mich.); Mount Sinai School of Medicine (Nassau County, N.Y.); Northwestern

University (Cook County, Ill.); St. Louis University (Macoupin County, Ill., and St. Louis, Mo.); University of California, Davis (Sacramento County, Calif.); University of California, Irvine (San Diego County, Calif.); University of California, Los Angeles (Los Angeles County, Calif.); University of Hawaii at Manoa (Honolulu County, Hawaii); University of Minnesota (Ramsey County, Minn.); University of Mississippi (Hinds County, Miss.); University of New Mexico (Valencia County, N.M.); University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Rockingham County, N.C.); University of Pittsburgh (Marion County, W.Va., and Westmoreland County, Pa.); University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (Bexar County, Texas); University of Utah (Cache County, Utah); University of Washington (King County, Wash.); and Yale University (New Haven County, Conn.).

The NCS is a collaborative effort between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (including NICHD, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at the National Institutes of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

For more information about the NCS, visit www.nationalchildrensstudy.gov.

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About the University of Massachusetts Medical School
The University of Massachusetts Medical School, one of the fastest growing academic health centers in the country, has built a reputation as a world-class research institution, consistently producing noteworthy advances in clinical and basic research.  The Medical School attracts more than $176 million in research funding annually, 80 percent of which comes from federal funding sources. For more information, visit www.umassmed.edu.  

About the UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center
The Medical School’s clinical partner, UMass Memorial Health Care, is home to the UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center, a “hospital within a hospital” providing comprehensive services to children throughout the region. With more than 100 medical and surgical specialists skilled in and devoted to the care of children, the UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center offers a full range of care to infants, children and adolescents in a close-to-home environment that is sensitive and responsive to the needs of families. The Center was recently accepted into the National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions, a nonprofit organization that promotes the health and well-being of children and their families through support of children’s hospitals and health systems that are committed to excellence in providing health care to children. Go to www.umassmemorial.org/CMC.

Contact: Alison Duffy, 508-856-2000