Rockingham County, UNC chosen to participate in National Children's Study

October 04, 2007
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been selected as a study center in the National Children’s Study, according to a National Institutes of Health announcement Oct. 4, 2007.

The study, which the NIH calls the largest of its kind ever conducted in the United States, will measure the effects of environmental, social, biological and behavioral factors on child health. Nationwide, 22 newly funded study centers will recruit more than 26,000 children in 26 study locations around the country. Ultimately, 100,000 children will be enrolled as more study locations are added over the next few years.

“This project is great news for North Carolina,” said Barbara Entwisle, Ph.D., director of the Carolina Population Center and principal investigator of the grant. “The study will provide a direct benefit to the children of our state.”

UNC will focus its work on Rockingham County, which borders the Virginia state line north of Greensboro. The county was chosen by the NIH to provide an accurate profile of the country, based on income, education level, race, ethnicity, urban vs. rural environments and other factors.

The study will begin enrolling pregnant women in the summer of 2009. “This is the best way to get an understanding of the complex environment in which children and their families live,” said Entwisle, who is also Kenan Professor of sociology in UNC’s College of Arts & Sciences. The goal is to enroll enough women to ensure 250 live births each year for four years and follow those children through age 21.

Obesity, heart disease, asthma and autism are some of the diseases and disorders the researchers hope to learn more about. They will collect information from families about their health, their activities and their neighborhoods. They will also measure air and water quality at home and in schools, and collect various biological samples.

Photograph of Dr. Anna Maria Siega-Riz

Photograph of Dr. Anna Maria Siega-Riz

“Lifestyle behaviors that individuals and the community can change, such as diet and physical activity, will also be important to understand,” said Anna Maria Siega-Riz, Ph.D., associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition in the UNC School of Public Health and a co-principal investigator of the study. “These factors affect the health and emotional wellbeing of children and their families. The National Children’s Study will allow us to understand what things are protective or harmful to children.”

A key component of the study will be working with communities before and during the recruitment of study participants, said Nancy Dole, Ph.D., deputy director of the Carolina Population Center and co-principal investigator of the study.

“Members of the community need to know about the study and understand why it is being done so that families feel comfortable with it and are excited about being a part of this important work,” said Dole, who is also an adjunct professor of epidemiology in UNC’s School of Public Health.

“This far-reaching study will positively impact the implementation of evidence-based child health practice and prevention in local communities across the nation. We’re very excited about the potential that this study has for child health issues,” said Glenn L. Martin, Rockingham County health director.

UNC will receive $15.43 million over the next five years for the study. The university will establish an office in Rockingham County and staff will be hired to assist the researchers, Dole said.

UNC is one of 22 study centers announced by the NIH. The national effort is a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (including the National Institutes of Child Health & Human Development and the Environmental Health Sciences), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

UNC will partner with researchers from Duke University, Battelle Memorial Institute and McMillan & Moss Research. Dr. Emmanuel Walter, associate professor of pediatrics at Duke, will lead outreach to the pediatric community. Charles Knott, director of Battelle Survey Operations in Durham, will oversee recruitment of study participants and interactions with the families. Allan Parnell, president of McMillan & Moss Research, will coordinate community outreach in Rockingham County.


Nancy Dole can be reached at (919) 966-2821 or
Anna Maria Siega-Riz can be reached at (919) 962-8410 or
Glenn L. Martin can be reached at (336) 342-8143 or

For more information about the Carolina Population Center, visit:

Carolina Population Center contact: Lori Delaney, (919) 966-4562,

School of Public Health contact: Ramona DuBose, director of communications, (919) 966-7467,