National Children's Study Seeks to Change Lives, But Will L.A. Politicians Take Notice?

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Mon, Apr 4, 2011 at 7:00 AM
click to enlarge Apartment building near a freeway in L.A.'s east side - TED SOQUI
  • Ted Soqui
  • Apartment building near a freeway in L.A.'s east side

Dr. Calvin Hobel, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, believes the National Children's Study has the opportunity to change lives.

"If we can begin to improve pregnancy outcome," Hobel tells L.A. Weekly, explaining the intent of the study, "then we can reduce disease later in life ... and improve one's longevity."

Hobel is the co-principal investigator for the National Children's Study, which kicked off its work in Los Angeles County in February. The major health report's findings will be hard for Los Angeles politicians to ignore.

The National Children's Study was created to better understand the causes of childhood disease such as diabetes, obesity, asthma, autism, and birth defects. One of the largest study centers in the United States is based in Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

In Los Angeles County, researchers are looking to enroll 4,000 participants from 14 randomly selected neighborhoods with that number growing to 56 neighborhoods as the landmark study moves forward.

National Children's Study researchers are seeking to contact women between the ages of 18 and 49 who are pregnant or are likely to become pregnant from the first 14 neighborhoods, which includes Alhambra, Brentwood, Compton, Crenshaw, Downey, downtown L.A., Highland Park, Lancaster, Lennox, Lynwood/Southgate, North Hills, San Pedro, Sun Valley and West Covina.

Among a number of impacts, Hobel says researchers will be looking at how living near polluted freeways affects the health of children.

"[Research] segments are close to freeways, and segments are not close to freeways," says Hobel. "So we'll be able to analyze that particular risk [of living near a freeway]."

Hobel says "a lot of people don't spend a lot of time on thinking on when a person's disease begins."

The National Children's Study plans to change that by understanding the environmental factors that pregnant women live in, and how that may affect their children's health after they are born.

The Weekly cover story "Black Lung Lofts" examined how living near L.A.'s freeways badly affected the health of children, the sick, and senior citizens.

It also revealed that the L.A. City Council and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa have done little to nothing to provide safeguards, such as instituting a buffer zone between a freeway and where new homes and apartment buildings are allowed to be built.

L.A. politicians, however, have long known about the health risks of living near a polluted freeway. As information from the National Children's Study rolls out over the next several years, it may not be so easily for them to once again ignore the facts.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

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