CMU part of state, national effort to improve child health

$160 million NIH grant targets early medical care, long-term wellness

| Author: Gary H. Piatek

Central Michigan University Health and the College of Medicine are taking part in a $160 million national data gathering project with the goal to improve the future health of children and their mothers throughout Michigan and nationwide.

The Michigan effort is being guided by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Henry Ford Health System, Michigan State University, Wayne State University and University of Michigan.

The purpose is to document for seven years the health care of mothers and their children — from as early as the prenatal stage — in diverse areas around the state to determine how health care, environmental, socioeconomic and other factors affect child development. The effort will at the same time reveal health needs of our state as a whole.

“If we can’t positively impact the health of our children, we won’t be able to impact the health of them as adults.” — Dr. Elena Oatey, CMU Health

Project coordinators chose to include the Saginaw area because of its diverse community and the fact that its health care organizations receive patients from the upper peninsula through mid-Michigan.

mug-oatey"This study really speaks to CMU's mission to serve the rural and underserved areas of Michigan," said CMU Health Dr. Elena Oatey, adding that CMU Health was chosen because of the quality of its neonatal care.

Oatey is the primary investigator for the Saginaw area cohort. She is working with CMU Health's Dr. John Blebea and Dr. Neli Ragina, research director at the College of Medicine.

The initiative will create a huge database that will allow researchers to look at the statistics from a variety of perspectives and discover which areas of Michigan have better pregnancy and childhood health rates and which have poor health data.

For example, they could examine the data to see if rural babies and mothers are healthier or have worse health than those in cities with ready access to health care. The participants will not only have their health data recorded over the years, but they also will answer questionnaires about environmental factors.

Because the mothers will become part of the study from the time they start receiving care, researchers also will be able to determine if the timing of care plays a factor in the health of baby and mother, Oatey said.

Mugi-Ragina-as"This is of critical importance because we have not had a longitudinal study on childhood care," Neli Regina said.

Previously, researchers had to look back at inconsistent health records to try to determine what might have affected a child's health.

"The study's overall goal is to improve care," she said. "If we can't positively impact the health of our children, we won't be able to impact their health as adults."

The bulk of the national Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes initiative is being funded by the National Institutes of Health, with $4.8 million going to the Michigan effort dubbed CHARM, for Child Health Advances from Research with Mothers. The Michigan Health Endowment Fund also is contributing.

The money covers the first two years of the seven-year project.

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