Baldwin County is one of 105 counties in the United States chosen to take part in the largest long-term study of children’s health ever conducted in the country, known as the National Children’s Study (NCS).
The Emory Battelle Morehouse Chattanooga (EBMC) Study Center launched a campaign to inform and recruit Baldwin families for the national study during a town hall meeting last week. The NCS will study 100,000 children from pre-conception through age 21 in selected communities based on location, diversity and the number of children born each year.
“We are collecting information that one day might be used to develop new ways to prevent or treat child health problems and new safety guidelines to protect children’s health,” Baldwin County NCS Principal Investigator Dr. Carol Hogue said via press release. “We need every pregnant woman and a number of children born in three or five years of recruitment to participate because this is a small county.”
The study will collect information to help the country’s top researchers in obstetrics, pediatrics and environmental health learn how genetics and the environment affect children’s development and well-being.
“We will collect biological samples like blood, urine and DNA; physical samples like weight, height and head size; and environmental samples like air, water, soil, pet allergens, dust and lead levels,” Battelle CPHRE Atlanta Director Dr. Bradley Skarpness said when giving a study overview at the meeting. “Every woman is eligible.”
“Right now we are just asking and answering questions,” Hogue added. “We won’t be visiting homes and drawing blood until sometime in 2011.”
The Baldwin County NCS’s team is linked with faculty and researchers from Emory University School of Medicine and Rollins School of Public Health, Battelle Memorial Institute, Morehouse School of Medicine and the University of Tennessee College of Medicine Chattanooga, also known as the EBMC Study Center.
“It’s hard to digest that something this huge is going to happen in Milledgeville-Baldwin County. For the study to be here, it speaks volumes that someone recognized that Milledgeville is unique and Baldwin County needs to be part of the national study,” Milledgeville Housing Authority Board Member and interested Milledgeville citizen Carrie Jarrett said after the forum. “I don’t think people realize what [the study] is all about. Our voices, our women and children will be part of a study that will affect the lives of the nation ... and it will give us bragging rights for years to come. I’m just excited.”
The Baldwin County Board of Commissioners and Milledgeville Mayor Richard Bentley proclaimed Friday, Nov. 12, as “Baldwin County National Children’s Study Day” to recognize the importance of the national study on the health and well-being of future generations.
A community advisory board made up of local leaders, educators and doctors have come together to address health issues of children and families and carry out activities supporting NCS’s mission in Milledgeville.
“I am excited to see this study carried out in Baldwin County,” Baldwin County NCS Community Advisory Board member and local pediatrician Marshall Ivey said. “I have three kids myself, and as much as I want to see them grow up healthy, I want to see their children live long healthy lives.”
“I am happy to be part of this team and am looking forward to getting the information out to community residents,” Baldwin County Family Connection Coordinator and local NCS Advisory Board Member Kenneth Daniels added. “I hope everybody will grasp it with open arms.”
Women in the community who are pregnant or may become pregnant in the next few years are now eligible to join the Baldwin County NCS. Initial recruitment takes screeners 30 minutes followed by a 30-minute questionnaire, two pre-pregnancy interviews and a birth interview. From that point on, researchers will make contact with the family every six months to a year for follow-up one-hour interviews.
“When we say every woman, it’s not only the women who possibly may become pregnant in the next few years, but tell other generations,” Baldwin County NCS Site Leader Usha Ramakrishnan said. “Baldwin County was selected, and we don’t want to miss recruitment for the county.”
The local study site’s temporary office is located at the Early Learning Center while a permanent office is currently being set up in the Columbia Center.
“[We] are constructing a state-of-the-art facility to conduct data collection for the National Children’s Study. The space is 4,000 square feet, and it will feature a greeting area, several offices, an observation room and laboratory space. Our address will be at 105 Fieldstone Drive,” Baldwin County NCS Data Collection Manager Dr. Joycelynn Nelson said. “We have hired 29 qualified employees and 19 field-listers who are in charge of mapping over 21,400 addresses in all of Baldwin County. We have hired 10 qualified women for recruiting and interviewing; they are the face of the study. This data we collect is highly classified.”
To represent Georgia’s study locations, Baldwin, DeKalb and Fayette counties are the only three chosen to partake.
“As an educator who taught for 16 years ... I hope that the findings that will come will have an influence on how we educate our children and parents,” Eagle Ridge Elementary School Principal and Community Advisory Board Member Jeanette Scott said. “This is for the future of Baldwin County students, children and future leaders.”
For more information about the study, eligibility requirements and other study locations, call Nelson at (478) 804-0180 or visit www.Baldwin.NationalChildrensStudy.gov.