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Six child health sites named

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Washington --- The National Children's Study, a congressionally ordered effort to look at causes of childhood tragedies such as stillbirth, autism, asthma and diabetes, named its six main study centers Thursday, even though there is no assurance it will ever be fully funded.

The study, sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and two other federal agencies, was designed to track the growth of 100,000 American children in 96 counties, beginning with their mothers' pregnancies.

Researchers are to conduct detailed interviews with the children's mothers, save umbilical cord blood, hair, blood samples and baby teeth for later analysis and collect samples of air, water, dust and other parts of the children's environments.

Although participants are to be monitored until their 21st birthdays, child health experts believe the large quantity of data collected will begin to provide crucial answers within a few years.

The newly named "vanguard" centers are at the universities of North Carolina, California, Wisconsin and Utah, Children's Hospital in Philadelphia and Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

However, if Congress does not provide more funding next year, the centers will not be able to recruit participants, officials said.

The study was ordered by Congress in 2000 with the expectation that its $2.7 billion cost, over 25 years, would be significantly exceeded in the health care costs it would save.

But its budget this year is $12 million, less than half the amount initially planned for the year. President Bush requested $12 million for next year, less than one-fifth that year's proposed budget.

Copyright 2005 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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