U.T. Health Science Center at San Antonio to bring landmark federal study of child health to South Texas

SAN ANTONIO (Oct. 4, 2007)—The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio has been selected as a center for the National Children’s Study, the largest analysis of child and human health ever conducted in the United States. Officials announced the new study centers today in a briefing at the National Institutes of Health. The Health Science Center is the only such center in Texas.

The National Children’s Study will assess the effects of environmental and genetic factors on child and human health nationwide. The Health Science Center will receive more than $33 million to manage participant recruitment and data collection at sites in Bexar, Hidalgo and Travis counties.

The Health Science Center is one of 22 new centers of the study, which is a collaborative effort between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, both of the National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are the participating HHS agencies.

“As a pediatrician who specializes in treating diabetes and obesity, I am intensely interested in the conditions, many starting long before the child is born, that lead to both good and poor health,” said Daniel E. Hale, M.D., professor of pediatrics at the Health Science Center and principal investigator for the Bexar, Hidalgo and Travis county sites. “The National Children’s Study will permit us to better understand the impact of many environmental and social factors on childhood growth and development, and the interactions of these factors with a child’s genetic inheritance.”

The National Children’s Study eventually will follow a representative sample of 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. The study is expected to help children across the U.S. and shape child health guidance, interventions and policy for generations to come.

“This study will provide insights about many areas of normal and abnormal pregnancy, and hopefully give us much more information about diseases on which we have little information today, such as preterm birth, pre-eclampsia and miscarriage,” said Donald J. Dudley, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Health Science Center and co-principal investigator for the Bexar, Hidalgo and Travis county sites. “It is difficult to conceive of all the questions that will be answered using the data generated from this study.”

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is a national leader in child health research. Key areas of note include childhood diabetes, diabetes and obesity prevention, pediatric cancers, asthma and more. Collaborators on the National Children’s Study in Bexar County include the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health Care, the University Health System and the Methodist Healthcare System.

Clinical assessments of young participants in the Bexar County site will be done at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital and at most of the birthing hospitals in town.

Numerous individuals and institutions in all three counties wrote strong letters of support for the project. “We could not have brought this important national study to South Texas without the efforts of our community and institutional partners,” Dr. Hale said.

Several South Texans have served on advisory and planning committees for the National Children’s Study, including Fernando Guerra, M.D., M.P.H., director of the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District; Amelie G. Ramirez, Dr.P.H., professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the Health Science Center; and Dr. Dudley.

The Bexar County study site will not begin recruiting participants immediately; however, study personnel soon will identify and begin interacting with key community groups and will establish relationships with facilities where participants will be accessed.

In total, the study will be conducted in 105 previously designated study locations across the United States that together are representative of the entire U.S. population. A national probability sample was used to select the counties in the study, which took into account factors including race and ethnicity, income, education level, number of births and number of babies born with low birth weights.

The National Children’s Study began in response to the Children’s Health Act of 2000, when Congress directed the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and other federal agencies to undertake a national, long-term study of children’s health and development in relation to environmental exposures. (See: Section 1004, http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=106_cong_bills&docid=f:h4365enr.txt.) Today’s announcement of new study centers follows earlier study milestones, including the 2004 announcement of the 105 study locations and the establishment of the vanguard centers (the first seven centers that were established in 2005).

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The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is the leading research institution in South Texas and one of the major health sciences universities in the world. With an operating budget of $576 million, the Health Science Center is the chief catalyst for the $14.3 billion biosciences and health care sector in San Antonio’s economy. The Health Science Center has had an estimated $35 billion impact on the region since inception and has expanded to six campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. More than 22,000 graduates (physicians, dentists, nurses, scientists and allied health professionals) serve in their fields, including many in Texas. Health Science Center faculty are international leaders in cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, aging, stroke prevention, kidney disease, orthopaedics, research imaging,
transplant surgery, psychiatry and clinical neurosciences, pain management, genetics, nursing, allied health, dentistry and many other fields.

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