CSUB partners with UC Irvine and UC Berkeley for national study, receives $10.4 million grant

October 6, 2008
Kathy Miller, 661/654-2456, kmiller26@csub.edu or
Michele Newel, 661/654-2720, mnewell1@csub.edu
National Study Grant Photo

At a national news conference this morning, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development announced that California State University, Bakersfield has been selected to partner with University of California, Berkeley, University of California, Irvine, and University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center to participate in a nationwide study designed to improve the health and well-being of children. The universities will receive $14.5 million over five years for the research, with CSUB receiving $10.4 million.

The National Children's Study is the largest study to be conducted on the effects of environmental and genetic factors on child and human health in the United States. The study will follow a representative sample of 100,000 children from before birth to age 21, seeking information to prevent and treat some of the nation's most pressing health problems, including autism, birth defects, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

Kern is one of 105 counties nationwide to be included in the study, with nine of these in California.

"This study represents a golden opportunity for CSU Bakersfield to participate in high-level health research and strengthen our engagement with the community as well as with top-rated scientists at the University of California," said CSUB President Horace Mitchell. "We believe this project will bring resources to identify health challenges in Kern County and improve the well-being of residents here and throughout the nation."

Participation by CSUB and Kern County in the project stems from long-standing relationships Mitchell has with both UC campuses.

"I was contacted by Jim Swanson, who is principal investigator for the study and a former colleague. He inquired about CSUB's interest in participating in this landmark research and including Kern County in the study," Mitchell said. "There was no question that we wanted to contribute to the effort. Research of this magnitude with these premiere research institutions reflects the increasing recognition of the excellence of our faculty and academic programs. This will have a direct benefit on our community."

Swanson expressed his excitement about the long-term collaborations that will develop between the UC campuses and CSUB. "I have enjoyed working over the last two years with Bob Horton, Peggy Leapley and Julio Blanco at CSUB and Asa Bradman at UC Berkeley on the study proposal. Without them, this grant wouldn't have happened for Kern County. Their interest and work has been tremendous and they have been willing to do whatever is necessary to make this project a reality," he added.

University officials submitted an extensive proposal that detailed project objectives and collaborative relationships with partners such as Kern County Department of Public Health, Kern Medical Center, First 5 Kern, and the Kern County Network for Children. CSUB also received broad support from myriad regional medical care providers and the Kern County Board of Supervisors.

"Planning for this project has involved developing extensive support among many organizations and individuals. I am privileged to work with people so committed to the well being of their community," said Asa Bradman, who will help lead the Kern County portion of the study from the Center for Children's Environmental Health Research at UC Berkeley.

Locally, the principal investigator for the study will be Peggy Leapley, who recently retired from CSUB as chair of the nursing department but will continue working on this project. She will work closely with Bradman.

"This was a highly competitive process and this study has the potential to influence health care decisions for generations. This is a 25-year longitudinal study. It's size and scope are unprecedented," Leapley said. "On campus, the research will be tremendous for our nursing students who will have a hands-on opportunity to learn about public health and how it impacts nursing."

Medical and technical staff from the Kern County Department of Public Health and Kern Medical Center will be actively involved in the study. Eugene Kercher, chief medical officer at KMC, was acknowledged as instrumental in the success of the proposal.

"We are grateful for the hard work and support of CSUB, UC Berkeley, UC Irvine and Kern County community groups who have worked together to make this important project possible," said Portia Choi, director of Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health for the Kern County Department of Public Health. "The Board of Supervisors and virtually every large hospital and medical provider supported this study. This was a true community partnership effort. Public Health is grateful for this opportunity and we look forward to the impact it will have on our community."

Study researchers hope to gain insight into the genesis of important health issues by examining environmental factors such as air, water, and house dust; what children eat; how they are cared for; the safety of their neighborhoods; and how often they see a doctor. Findings from the study will provide the basis for new disease prevention strategies, health and safety guidelines, and potential new treatments and cures for diseases. Planning for the local portion of the study will begin immediately and approximately 1,000 Kern County participants will be enrolled by early 2011.

The National Children's Study is led by a consortium of federal agencies: the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services—including the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—and the Environmental Protection Agency.

For more information about the National Children's Study, see the official website at www.nationalchildrensstudy.gov.

For information about the study locally, contact Leapley at (661) 654-2650; Choi at (661) 868-0461; or Bradman at (510) 643-3023 or abradman@berkeley.edu.