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Restoring Science to the National Children's Study

Nigel Paneth, MD, MPH
JAMA. 2013;309(17):1775-1776. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.3870.
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The unhappy state of the National Children's Study (NCS) has been described in several recent publications.1,2 Authorized by Congress in 2000, but not fully funded until 2007, this ambitious National Institutes of Health (NIH) study has consumed years of planning efforts, produced many reports and white papers, and spent close to a billion dollars.

Yet, in 2013, the study is still in its pilot phase. The original design, proposed in 2004, was to enroll 100 000 pregnant women in a nationally representative sample of 105 communities. But in 2011, the NIH announced that sample size would be increased to “up to 250 000 women,”3 and in 2012 added that the NCS would use “healthcare provider networks as the primary sources for recruitment”4 and that the “enrolled population would no longer be a national proability sample.”5 Later in 2012, the NIH had second thoughts and reverted to 100 000 participants, but now at least half would be recruited at birth, not in pregnancy, and from a sampling frame of hospitals, not counties.6

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