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Two years ago, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center joined a national effort to improve children’s health, development and quality of life by participating in the National Children’s Study (NCS), one of the most comprehensive research efforts focused on children’s growth, development, and health in the United States.
The NCS is a long-term study designed to examine the differences, such as access to healthcare, disease occurrence or exposure to environmental toxins, between groups of children across the country, and to identify the factors that contribute to these differences or disparities. The NCS will take place in two phases: the Vanguard Study and the Main Study.
The Vanguard Study started in 2007 and is currently taking place in 40 locations across the US, including Lamar County, and will evaluate the feasibility, acceptability, and cost of the NCS. The Vanguard Study is focused on testing and evaluating the best ways to collect and manage the information provided by families about their child, as well as assessing the best approaches to keeping families engaged and willing to participate in the NCS. Recently, the National Institutes of Health implemented a new regional approach for managing the Study.
Lamar County is now part of the South Region and is being led by a team from Northwestern University in Chicago, Focal Point Global/Delve in St. Louis and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock. There are two local community members who serve as data collectors and continue to work with families in Lamar County.
The NCS is no longer enrolling children in Lamar County. The Study is now concentrating on how best to stay in touch with families and keep them participating in order to continue to gather information as the children grow older. As part of this retention effort, the South Region Team plans to have a local NCS office in Lamar County where participants can conveniently come for their scheduled data collection appointments.
According to Jane Holl, M.D., M.P.H a pediatrician at Northwestern University and also an NCS South Region Principal Investigator, “Residents of Lamar County have embraced the National Children’s Study with open arms. During the entire recruitment and enrollment period, families were supportive and recognized the important knowledge that will be gained from this Study.”
Dr. Holl adds that “As part of the Vanguard Study, we will focus on continuing to gather high quality data, to engage and retain families in the Study, and to reach out and inform the community. Our research team has successfully started following and gathering information Lamar County families about their toddlers through telephone calls and home visits.
“The commitment of these families to continue to participate in the NCS Vanguard Study is a testament to the wonderful relationship that was established by the team from the University of Texas Southwestern with them — one that we fully intend to live up to. The continued contribution to the Study by these families for the next 21 years could make a difference in children’s health for generations to come.”