The New Hampshire Birth Cohort Study is a research project that is investigating how various factors such as contaminants in the environment affect the health of pregnant women and their children. Beginning in 2009, with the help of medical providers in New Hampshire, the study staff at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, began enrolling pregnant women at clinics in the Concord and Lebanon regions of New Hampshire. Today our study has over 1,200 women and 1,200 children from New Hampshire and Vermont participating in this important study.
Children's environmental health and disease prevention is a new and evolving field of research. It is especially important because pregnancy and childhood are critical times in the life cycle when the vulnerability to environmental contaminants may be enhanced. Likewise, the potential for short and long term health effects of exposure to environmental contaminants also may be heightened during these times of rapid development and growth.
Our research is what is known as a prospective longitudinal cohort study. This basically means that we are actively following our group of study participants over time as they grow and develop - from early pregnancy and into childhood. We designed our study this way so that we can collect information at time points that are considered to be especially critical to the development of children and when we may best assess the possible effects of various contributors to health such as environmental contaminants. By following the children prospectively, as opposed to retrospectively (i.e. looking back), we are likely to be able to more accurately learn about how different environmental contaminants may be affecting the health of children and pregnant women. As this is an epidemiologic study, we look for trends in the overall group of mothers and children we are following as opposed to specifics found in individuals. Our hope is that our research will help support the development of guidelines for public health Organizations and medical providers interested in protecting the health of pregnant women and children from adverse health effects of environmental contaminants; as well as provide parents with information to improve life-long health.
If you are a participant in our study you have probably met some of our staff who work with our collaborating clinics and the wonderful teams that help to make this study a success. A few of the study staff members who may have met are listed below.
Jennifer Egner, Regional Research Manager - Jenn does most of the enrollment at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Lebanon Obstetrics Clinic, but she also oversees the work at the Concord Clinics and occasionally enrolls women at those clinics as well. Jenn coordinates all of the questionnaire mailings and sample collection kits, gifts and cards for women and children. She makes sure that all the information from the questionnaires and other materials completed or collected from our study participants gets entered in our databases for analysis and stored properly. Jenn also coordinates activities with the Birthing Pavilion at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center when the babies are born. Jenn makes periodic calls to participants to remind them of missing items and helps our research director with providing updates and information to Dartmouth and our sponsors to ensure that the research is being conducted as designed and is safe for our study participants.
Kara O'Brien, Project Coordinator - Kara works mostly in the office and is primarily responsible for the packaging and sending out all the packages our study participants receive. She also picks ups materials from women and children at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock pediatric clinic and sometimes helps Jenn with enrolling women at the Lebanon obstetrical clinic. Kara makes periodic calls to participants to remind them of missing items and helps our research director and Jenn with providing updates and information to the Dartmouth and our sponsors to ensure that the research is being conducted as designed and is safe for our study participants.
Sarah Crist, Project Coordinator - Sarah, helps with the data entry of all the information collected from our study participants. She is also responsible for conducting much of the processing of the samples collected in our laboratory. She helps our lab manager write procedures for the laboratory and helps Jenn and Kara with mailings and follow up with participants.
Trainees and Student workers - being a college, our study employs a few student workers each term. Most of our students are from Dartmouth, but sometimes in the summer we have students from other colleges working with us. We have also had students from Geisel School of Medicine and other graduate students as well as postdoctoral trainees who have worked on our study. All of the students and trainees have contributed to the success of our study and have worked on everything from data entry, to laboratory processing and analysis, protocol development and the preparation of presentations, professional papers and reports summarizing the findings of our study.
Jennifer Egner, Regional Research Manager