One of the largest health studies ever done in the United States will look at environmental influences on children. The study will examine the many environmental and genetic factors that affect the health of children and the adults they become. Dr. Steven Hirshfeld at the National Institutes of Health is the study director. Test projects have already begun, and he says the main part of the National Children's Study will begin next year. "Our goal is to understand how you can get the healthiest, most robust child to develop into a healthy and contributing member of adult society." Researchers want to study one hundred thousand children across America. The study will collect information from before they are born until they are twenty-one years old. There are seven centers around the country where parents can join the study. For example, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, with study four thousand children in the Los Angeles area. They also plan to study one thousand children in a rural area. The aim is to see what effect pesticides used on nearby farms might have on the children's health. Dr. Michael Lu is one of the lead investigators at UCLA. He says, "We're examining a number of very important child conditions such as asthma and autism, pre-term birth and birth defects, obesity and diabetes and various behavioral and learning problems." The researchers will also study mental health disorders. Dr. Liu says, "I think this study has the potential to change the way we look at childhood health and development." The goal of the National Children's Study is to create a database that researchers around the world can use. Dr. Hirshfeld, the study director, says this information could help solve some unanswered questions. "We have knowledge gaps in many of the most important factors that influence not only the health and well-being and development of children, but that begin the foundations of what could turn into chronic conditions for adults." Findings from the study will be released as they become available. The information could lead to new policies and changes in existing laws on child health and the environment. The hope is that children can live healthier lives and grow into healthier adults.
For VOA Special English, I'm Alex Villarreal. You can watch a video about the National Children's Study at voaspecialenglish.com, where you can also learn English with our programs and activities.