Mercy Joins National Children’s Study

May 10, 2011


Mercy of Northwest Arkansas physicians and

administrators with representatives of the

National Children’s Study at the contract

signing celebration. First row (left to right): Scott

Street, Michele Stewart, Dr. A.R. Addington.

Second row: Janice Shannahan, Lisa Mann,

Pearl McElfish, Dr. Joel Jones, Sherry Lloyd,

Dr. Nicole Scally, Dr. Hugh Donnell, Rosie Harris,

Lois Crow, Allison Apple

Mercy Health System of Northwest Arkansas announces a partnership with the National Children’s Study (NCS) to begin recruiting study participants from four Mercy clinic locations in Benton County. Expectant mothers and women planning a pregnancy over the next few years, ages 18 to 49, who see a Mercy obstetric physician will be screened by address to see if they qualify for the study. If they do, a representative of the National Children’s Study will meet with them to give them more information about participating.

The National Children’s Study is the largest long-term study of children’s health ever conducted in the United States.  Benton County is one of just 105 counties in the U.S. and the only one in Arkansas chosen to participate in this observational study that will follow 100,000 children nationwide from before birth to age 21 to examine how genetics and the environment influence children’s health, development and quality of life.

The announcement of the NCS-Mercy partnership comes just three months after the NCS launched its observational children’s health research study in Benton County. Since the contract approval, the NCS team says that with the assistance of the Mercy clinics, they have been able to identify more than 30 Benton County women who are eligible to participate in the study. 

The Benton County Study Center, located in the J.B. Hunt Tower in Rogers has chosen the “Provider Based” recruitment strategy which is why a partnership with Mercy Health System is so important to the success of the Study.

“We believe that women trust their providers, and that through this relationship they are more comfortable joining a study that will improve the health and wellness of their children and their children’s children,” explains Pearl McElfish, NCS Administrator.

Participant eligibility is limited to women ages 18-49 who live in pre-determined areas of Benton County and who are either currently pregnant or plan to become pregnant. Researchers are planning to study more than 1,000 children from Benton County and observe them in the places that they live, learn and play.

“It’s exciting to think that the results of this study may help us find answers to questions we’ve had for years,” said Dr. A.R. Addington, an obstetrician/gynecologist at Mercy Women’s Health.  “This study could shed light on everything from birth defects to autism to common childhood illnesses. The participation of our patients will undoubtedly benefit generations to come.”

In the pilot phase of the Study, the NCS team consists of registered nurses and qualified research assistants whose skill set is ideally suited for recruiting and retaining women and their children for 21 + years. Data collection efforts include visits to the clinics to interview interested participants, in-home visits, telephone surveys, questionnaires and medical history. In the main Study that is projected for January 2012, light touch environmental and biological samples will be collected from participants. It is also important for participants to understand that their privacy is protected under HIPPA, a certificate of research confidentiality and The Privacy Act.

The study will look at how environmental exposures affect children as they grow—developmentally, neurologically, emotionally, physically, socially. The NCS will consider the environmental factors along with their genetic interactions to assess what disease or illness might be preventable. Such research findings could help determine future health policies and guidelines.

The project site is fully funded through a National Institutes of Health grant awarded to Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute with University of Arkansas Medical Sciences researchers. The National Children’s Study is made possible through a consortium of federal agencies collaborating to achieve the scope anticipated for the study, including the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, United States Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

For more information about the Study – 1-877-KID-STDY or visit the  Arkansas Study Center.

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