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Largest children's study in history under way

February 22, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Local doctors Tuesday launched an ambitious project that could impact the health of future generations. The National Children's Study is the biggest research project of its kind - it'll follow 100,000 kids from birth until they're 21 years old.

The goal is to look at how genetic and environmental factors contribute to major childhood diseases.

"The doctor explained to us that there's going to be a study going on of different diseases and it's for our kids, and for 21 years of their life," said Hernandez.

Richard Hernandez wants to give his baby a healthy start, so when he heard about the study, he jumped at the chance. Hernandez and his wife are planning to enroll their baby, due in June, in this landmark project.

Dr. Neal Halfon, director of the UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities, thinks what comes from the National Children's Study will one day revolutionize the way we view diseases like obesity, asthma and autism.

"Under the best of circumstances, we'll know a whole lot more about the origins of these problems, their causes and more importantly, what we can do to prevent them," said Halfon.

He says earlier studies have given doctors a peek into how environmental factors can affect us, sometimes from birth.

"There are certain exposures and certain kind of experiences that children have that basically gets built into your biology. It's how toxic environments and risky families really get under your skin and imbed themselves into your biology," said Halfon.

He hopes for a healthier life for the next generation.

"We know that we're going to get better research for our kids, not even just my kids, but the kids of my community," said Hernandez.

In Los Angeles County, researchers hope to enroll 4,000 kids from 14 randomly selected neighborhoods in cities like Alhambra, San Pedro and Sun Valley. Families that participate will be compensated for their time, and may receive free health screenings.

If you're interested in enrolling your child in the Children's Health Study, call (877) 834-7064 or check its website.