One Arkansas County to be Part of the National Children's Study

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Benton County, Arkansas is one of 105 sites participating in the National Children’s Study. The large national study will follow a nationally representative sample of 100,000 children from before birth to age 21.

The study will last for decades and will identify environmental, lifestyle, and biological factors associated with multiple health outcomes, including prematurity and birth defects, autism, asthma, obesity, and injuries.

Benton County is the only site in Arkansas from which participants will be enrolled in the Study. Dr. Charlotte Hobbs and Dr. James Robbins will lead a team from the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute Study Center who will be responsible for enrolling 1,000 infants and their parents to participate in the landmark study.

The goal of the National Children’s Study is to improve the health and well-being of children and contribute to understanding the role various factors have on health and disease. Findings from the Study will be made available as the research progresses, making potential benefits known to the public as soon as possible.

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This project has been funded in whole with federal funds from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services.

Arkansas’ Benton County is primarily non-urban with 70% of the population residing within 10 miles of the I-540 corridor running north to south through the center of the county. The county is located in the Northwest corner of the state and is the second most populous county in Arkansas.

There are approximately 3,300 births per year to county residents. Based on birth certificate data, 81% of all births in the county occur at 3 delivering hospitals that are part of 2 large health systems, Northwest Health System and Mercy Health System.

Benton County has the lowest percentage of residents living below the poverty level (9.1%) and the second highest median household income ($48,162) in the state. From the Census data 2006–2008 (3-year estimate), 79% of the population of 202,363 in Benton County are white, almost 14% are Hispanic, and only 1% black. Asian, Native American, and multiracial each make up less than 6% of the population.

The National Children’s Study Principal Investigator in Arkansas, Dr. Charlotte Hobbs, has considerable experience conducting genetic epidemiologic multisite studies of adverse reproductive outcomes. Through her leadership role in the National Birth Defects Prevention Study, the largest epidemiologic case-control study of birth defects ever conducted in the United States, Dr. Hobbs has been enrolling infants and their parents in Benton County and the rest of Arkansas since January 1, 1998. This study annually enrolls 300 Arkansas women who have delivered an infant with a birth defect and 100 Arkansas control women; in the 12-year course of the study, more than 350 women from Benton County have been enrolled. Data collected for this study are similar to those targeted for the National Children’s Study, including those abstracted from maternal and infant medical charts, telephone-administered questionnaires, prenatal environmental and lifestyle factors, and biological specimens.

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