Study is the largest ever of the effects
of genetic and environmental factors on child health in the U.S.
UM to lead National
Children’s Study in Florida

he Miller School of Medicine has been selected by the National Institutes of Health as the study center in Florida for the wide-reaching National Children’s Study, an unprecedented look at the health of children in the U.S. that examines both environmental and genetic factors.

The National Children’s Study is the largest study ever of the effects of genetic and environmental factors on child and human health in the United States. The Miller School has been awarded a $39.9 million contract from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (with an option that could increase the value to $54.6 million) to conduct the study in South Florida and to serve as the coordinating study center for the three additional locations in Florida: Hillsborough, Orange, and Baker counties.

In Florida, researchers will follow 4,000 children—out of a total of 100,000 nationally—from their birth until their 21st birthday, seeking information to prevent and treat some of the most pressing health problems, including birth defects, obesity, heart disease, and autism.

“This is a historic study, championed by our own University of Miami President Donna Shalala in her former role as Secretary of Health and Human Services,” says Pascal J. Goldschmidt, senior vice president for medical affairs and dean of the Miller School.

“The National Children’s Study will answer some of the most important questions on child health of our time, and its findings will affect every child, every family, and every family thinking of having a child in the U.S.,” says Steven Lipshultz, professor and chair of the Department of Pediatrics, associate executive dean for child health at the Miller School, and chief of staff of the Holtz Children’s Hospital, who is principal investigator of the National Children’s Study in Florida.

“The body of research that results from this effort will likely have the greatest impact on what keeps children healthy and causes disease in children and adults when compared with prior government-funded studies in child health,” Lipshultz adds.

In addition to the Miller School, the NIH announced 26 new study centers and 38 additional study locations that will also participate in this monumental initiative, making a total of 72 study locations now in place. Eventually there will be 105 study locations in rural and urban communities across the nation that are demographically representative of the U.S. as a whole.

As the Florida study center, the Miller School, working with colleagues throughout the state, will help oversee recruitment in Miami-Dade, Hillsborough, Orange, and Baker counties, with the goal of enrolling a total of 4,000 children over the next six years. The magnitude of the study calls for extensive collaboration.

“This study requires community buy-in on all levels,” says Tracie Miller, professor of pediatrics, who is the co-principal investigator for the study in Florida. “We’ll work with families, government agencies, community groups, health care providers, hospitals, public agencies, and universities across the state toward a common theme of recruiting families and getting them excited about participating in this unique opportunity that will help us improve the lives of children.”

Nationwide, the National Children’s Study will follow about 400,000 women through their potential childbirths, simultaneously measuring aspects of the mothers’ physical environment, chemical exposures, biological environment, genetics, and psychosocial factors. From those women, 100,000 live births will be followed. To reach the target enrollment of 1,000 infants in Miami-Dade County, about 12,000 households will be surveyed and from 6,000 to 8,000 women will be enrolled.