2007-12-14 / Front Page

The Government Wants To Study Your Kid!

By Nicholas Briano

Rockaway has been chosen for yet another social experiment, and this time it involves, among other things, studying your kids for the next 20 years or so, or at least until they turn 21. It also involves taking air samples and measuring dust and mold, as part of a long-term research project being called The National Children's Study.

Dr. Barbara Brenner from The National Children's Study gives details about the program to Community Board 14 in hopes that it will encourage Rockaway residents to become 21-year experimental subjects. Dr. Barbara Brenner from The National Children's Study gives details about the program to Community Board 14 in hopes that it will encourage Rockaway residents to become 21-year experimental subjects. Dr. Barbara Brenner, Director of Community Outreach and Engagement for the National Children's Study, was on hand to demonstrate the study and tell Community Board 14 about its plans and benefits last Tuesday night, during the board's monthly meeting at The Knights of Columbus Hall.

Dr. Brenner told community board members that it was essential for them to understand what will be done in Rockaway. The peninsula was selected randomly as a location for the study, which will begin with researchers knocking on individual doors to ask local women of child-bearing age to participate.

The National Children's Study is a federally funded nationwide effort that will involve approximately 100,000 children in a long-term research project to assess the effect of environmental influences on their health and development.

The study will follow participating families and monitor children from prenatal stages to the age of 21. According to the Queens Vanguard Center, the study will help to pinpoint the various root causes of many of today's major childhood diseases and disorders. The study will help distinguish environmental factors that are harmful, as well as those that are beneficial, to children and their development.

The National Institutes of Health will be the primary coordinators and will follow children from birth to age 21. The Queens Vanguard Center will be the local coordinator of the Rockaway portion of the study, and will reach out to local facilities, something Brenner and her staff at Vanguard have been working on.

"We are working closely with The Addabbo Health Center as a community partner," Brenner said. "We hope to start, by early next year, monitoring children."

Brenner feels that it is essential to have the input of the people who live here prior to implementing the study in which they will be research subjects.

"We will begin as soon as February in starting to plan," Brenner said. "We will also be seeking local residents for employment opportunities for the study."

Although the project seemed a good idea to many, a number of Community Board members displayed a healthy dose of skepticism about the long-term goals of the project and the varying degree of change that can occur from childbirth to age 21. Some even said it was a waste of money and argued that it wouldn't work for the required period of time.

"This is just a huge waste of money," one board member said. "It has all been done before in the past."

Brenner insists, however, that the program will provide groundbreaking results that will help future generations.

"The study will allow us to accurately track each child's individual exposure," Brenner said. "The more information we have on each child's environment, [the] more we will learn."

Some of the major childhood diseases that will be closely looked at are obesity, asthma, and mental health ailments. It is believed that the study will produce data for researchers and scientists that will aid in the diagnosis, and search for the causes, of some of the most common childhood diseases.

Rockaway has been chosen as one of the key participation areas out of 107 nationwide. According to the Vanguard Center of Queens, the geographic locations selected for the study are designed to create a varied census of different environmental and social factors that may influence disease and development.

Recruitment is expected to start by the beginning of next year and will continue for five years; therefore, the length of the entire study ranges up to 26 years. However, as data is collected at certain points in childhood, it will be released and analyzed to draw conclusions from the findings. The data will hopefully aid scientists in developing prevention strategies and possible new treatments for the diseases that plague children across the country.

The first results are expected to be available in 2010 and will either prove or disprove many speculations that exist today about childhood ailments and their causes. There is no formal compensation for Program participants, which left a few board members even more skeptical about the commitment of the subjects and their respective mothers. For more information and participation requirements, visit: www.nationalchildrensstudy.gov.

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