Meg Farris / Medical Reporter

NEWORLEANS- The New Orleans area is about to play a role in history asthe largest study ever on children's health and development will use local people to gather important information.

And you can be a part of it.

Tulane researchers are looking for pregnant women or any women planning to get pregnant in the next few years. They need you to be a part of a nationwide study that will follow childrenfrom before they are born until theyare 21 years of age.

'We don't have very much information, so this is just a wonderful opportunity to begin to gather data for scientists to begin to understand better what goes on inside the womb,' said Dr. LuAnn White the Principal Investigator of the local arm of the study who is the Director of the Center for Applied Environmental Public Health at Tulane.

A team of experts hopes to sign up 1,000 children in Orleans Parish over the next few years. That information gathered for the next two decades, will be added to data collected from 42 other centers across the U.S. It is hoped that 100,000 children will be followed from the womb to their 21st birthdays.

'We'll collect data at birth, and then in the first year of life, every three to six months, we'll collect data. And then after two years old, it will probably go to once a year,' Dr. White explained.

There will be no medications or medical procedures done. There will mostly be questionnaires.

'We can gather more information by asking questions like, 'What do you eat? What is your diet? How much do you exercise? What kind of environment do you live in?' That gives us a tremendous amount of information and then we can supplement that with blood tests or with urine tests,' Dr. White said.

There is no way of knowing just how much important information is going to come out of this huge study. In fact, the children who aren't even born yet may affect the health care of children for generations to come.

'Having that information gives us tremendous power to be able to inform physicians, to be able to form public health services and various other agencies, on what are the best practices,' Dr. White continued.

They will uncover patterns in diseases, the effects of the environment and social issues, and how this city compares to others.

'We'll be looking at growth and development if parents happen to go through a divorce or if there's tragedy in the family or if there's good things,' Dr. White explained.

And scientists of the future will have a gold mine of data for new health questions that haven't even been thought of yet.

Research and community outreach jobs will be created and participants will be compensated with monetary gift cards.

For more on 'The National Children's Study,' call 988-1627.

They will also be at the Freret Street Market Saturday afternoon signing up people.

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