About the Series
The well-being of our nation’s children has great impacts on our nation’s ability to thrive.
We know that the well-being of adults has roots in early life. In order to increase our understanding of these processes, we need to study how our nation’s children learn and develop across the lifecourse from before they are born until adulthood. There is a consensus among many leading US scientists that a nationally representative birth cohort study that begins in pregnancy has unique value for major advancements in our understanding of how children in this nation grow into healthy, successful, and happy adults. And this perspective was voiced in the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine’s 2014 review of the National Children’s Study.
Efforts currently under way are not nationally representative or sufficiently comprehensive in their focus, particularly with respect to assessing the environment across the lifecourse. We now live in a time where the current technologies allow for collection of information in a manner that is cost effective, less burdensome to study participants, and secure. We can also process information more quickly and securely, allowing society to more immediately reap the benefits of this research. Allowing us to learn how all aspects of the environment work together to impact lifelong health and well-being has the potential to inform and transform evidence-based policies and practices to improve the prosperity of the nation.
In this two-part NAM Perspectives series, 17 experts discuss the reasons why a national birth cohort study is important for the future of health in the United States and how such a study could be designed in a way that is multidisciplinary, focuses on the main drivers of health, engages communities, employs a diverse set of data sources, and includes innovative techniques in data analysis.
With funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the National Academy of Medicine and Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education held two expert meetings to identify a set of activities to design a longitudinal birth cohort study across the life course. These meetings drew on The National Children’s Study 2014: An Assessment, which was a joint project of the Committee on National Statistics and the Board on Children, Youth, and Families. In addition to engaging a diverse array of stakeholders from academia, philanthropy, local communities, industry, and government, the meetings included discussions on how to design a national longitudinal cohort study that is multidisciplinary, focuses on the main drivers of health, engages communities, employs a diverse set of data sources, and includes innovative techniques in data analysis. The discussions included how to use the findings from such a study to improve and direct resources toward improvements in the drivers of health. This NAM Perspectives series and accompanying video reflects those discussions. The goal is to provide input into, and catalyze action for improvements in the design of future longitudinal birth cohort studies.
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The views expressed in this series of Perspectives are those of the authors and not necessarily of the authors’ organizations or of the National Academy of Medicine (NAM). These Perspectives are intended to help inform and stimulate discussion. They have not been subjected to the review procedures of, nor are they reports of, the NAM or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Copyright by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
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