Today, the number of childhood conditions with suspected environmental contributors is a daunting list. There is compelling evidence that development of obesity, cancer, asthma, autism, birth defects, and cerebral palsy have environmental roots.
Despite their ability to charm and surprise us with their grownup antics, children are not simply “little adults.” Their immature systems often make them more vulnerable than adults to environmental exposures. Compared with adults, children’s changing bodies take in more air, food, and water (for their weight) and their outdoor activities are more likely to cause them to be affected by their environment. Additionally, young children interact with the environment differently. For instance, they spend more time on the ground, close to dust, soil, and other elements of their environment, and engage in more hand-to-mouth behavior.
The National Children’s Study will examine important health issues to establish links between children’s environments and their health. By tracking children’s development from conception through infancy, childhood, and early adulthood, the Study hopes to determine what makes children healthy and able to reach their optimal potential. Data from the Study may inform research into many conditions such as, but not limited to, birth defects and pregnancy-related problems; injuries; asthma; obesity; diabetes; and behavior, learning, and mental health disorders, to establish links between children’s environments and their health. Findings from the Study will benefit all Americans by providing researchers, health care providers, and public health officials with information from which to develop prevention strategies and health and safety guidelines, as well as to guide future research.
Ultimately, the National Children’s Study will be one of the richest research efforts geared toward studying children’s health and development, and it may form the basis of child health guidance, interventions, and policy for generations to come. You could be a valuable part of this effort. Be part of changing the world!