Back in 2000, Congress authorized a massive, $6.7 billion study on child health -- and now, the study has been put in motion, and recruiters are knocking on doors for volunteers. The National Children's Study plans to recruit 100,000 first-trimester pregnant women, and track the development of their children from birth until they're 21. It's billed as the largest long-term study on child health -- ever -- and seeks to examine how genetic and environmental factors affect a child's health. An example of the questions they hope to answer: Does diet or genetic mutations cause autism?
This study is definitely intense, and literally begins from the moment of birth, with the collection of placenta and breast milk specimens (even baby's first poop!) Participants must also be open to having almost every aspect of their lives tested or questioned, from their diet and health habits to their carpet fibers and tap water. (They should probably be pretty altruistic, too; while the study pays for all tests, and participants can drop out anytime they want, the pay-off is, uh, for the good of mankind).
This study also has its own set of controversies. Should the researchers advise on clearly unhealthy habits of participants? Should participants receive genetic test results, even if a disease they have is untreatable?
Hopefully this study will ultimately yield some definite answers -- but we won't know for at least another 21 years.