Do pesticides cause asthma in children? Is there an environmental link to childhood obesity? A massive national study, performed in part in Pinal County with support from the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, could provide answers to some of the most daunting childhood health problems today.
The National Children's Study is examining 100,000 children in 105 locations, including Pinal County. Children will be studied from before birth through their 21st birthday.
Funded by Congress through the Children's Health Act of 2000, the study will examine how environment, genes and other factors affect children's health.
In Pinal County, under the guidance of Dr. Mari Wilhelm of the UA's Department of Nutritional Sciences, interviewers have been knocking on doors and enrolling women who are pregnant or might become pregnant, with the goal of enrolling 1,000 women.
The role of Pinal County Cooperative Extension is to educate residents about the study, said Cathy Martinez, Family, Consumer and Health Sciences Cooperative Extension faculty member in Pinal County.
"The study will result in the latest research on what it takes to have a healthy pregnancy and for young children to grow up healthy and strong," Martinez said. "We are making sure people are familiar with the study. It's an opportunity to collect so much rich data, and data that is county specific."
Pinal County Supervisor David Snider said the study is an opportunity for the county to be involved in a project with tremendous impact. It also benefits families locally. "We believe it will help us to understand the health challenges that face our children," Snider said.
"If we can put together programs that mitigate these issues, it sets the stage for an incredible economic boost," he added. "Children who are healthy are more likely to be successful in the classroom, which translates to greater success in the workforce."
Snider said UACE is an important partner in the study. "In rural Arizona, Cooperative Extension is very much a part of our quality of life," he said. "They are integrated into the fabric of Pinal County. Their participation gives credibility to the integrity of the national study."