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NIH Recommends Not Proceeding with National Children’s Study

Austin Regional dean at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health, Dr. Cheryl Perry was a member of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) working group that has recommended not proceeding with the ambitious National Children’s Study (NCS) as it is currently proposed.

In a report published by the National Institutes of Health Advisory Committee to the Director on December 12, the National Children’s Study group states, “Ultimately, the Working Group concludes that, while the overall goals and intent are meritorious and should be a priority for future scientific support, the NCS, as currently outlined, is not feasible.”

The working group called on the NIH to champion new scientific approaches that could make the original goals of the NCS more achievable, feasible, and affordable. The recommendation will now be considered by the NIH director and the Advisory Committee to the director, who will decide on the next steps for the NCS.

The NCS was authorized by the Children’s Health Act of 2000 with the aim to follow 100,000 children from prenatal through age 21 in order to examine the influences of a wide range of environmental and biological factors on the health and development of children. Despite 14 years and $1.3 billion allocated for pilot studies, the subcommittee saw critical flaws in the overall study design, management, and preparedness that led them to conclude that the NCS is not feasible as currently outlined.

The NCS working group was convened in July by NIH director Dr. Francis Collins in response to a critical assessment of the NCS in a report published this year by the Institute of Medicine (IOM). The working group consisted of top researchers who were selected for their expertise in the fields of environmental science, child health and development, epidemiology, statistics, and longitudinal study design.

“The working group deliberations were very intensive, given the December deadline and the importance of this decision, said Dr. Perry, who is also the Rockwell Distinguished Chair in Society and Health at UTHealth School of Public Health’s Michael and Susan Dell Center for Health Living. “We reviewed the proposed Children’s Health Study, two IOM reports, consulted with those who were responsible for the study at the NIH and talked with outside experts to receive input.”

This group was given the straightforward charge of “evaluating whether the NCS is feasible, as currently outlined, especially in light of increasing and significant budget constraints.”

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