- National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), created by Congress in 1962, supports and conducts research on topics related to the health of children, adults, families, and populations. Some of these health topics include:
- Reducing infant deaths;
- Improving the health of women and men;
- Understanding reproductive health;
- Learning about growth and development;
- Examining problems of birth defects and mental retardation; and
- Enhancing function and involvement across the life span through medical rehabilitation research.
On March 3, 2008, by Act of Congress (Public Law 110-154), the Institute was renamed the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in honor of Mrs. Shriver’s vision and dedication.
The NICHD is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the federal government’s major medical research agency, within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). For decades, people have turned to the NICHD for important health research advances and results. NICHD research focuses on these ideas:
- Events that happen prior to and throughout pregnancy as well as during childhood have a great impact on the health and well-being of adults;
- Human growth and development is a lifelong process that has many phases and functions;
- Learning about the reproductive health of men and women and educating people about reproductive practices is important to both individuals and societies; and
- Developing medical rehabilitation interventions can improve the health and well-being of people with disabilities.
The mission of the NICHD is to ensure that every person is born healthy and wanted, that women suffer no harmful effects from the reproductive process, and that all children have the chance to fulfill their potential for a healthy and productive life, free of disease or disability, and to ensure the health, well-being, independence, and productivity of all people through optimal medical rehabilitation.
To reach this goal, the NICHD:
- Conducts and supports laboratory research, clinical trials, and studies with people that explore health processes. NICHD researchers examine growth and development, biologic and reproductive functions, behavior patterns, and population dynamics to protect and maintain the health of all people.
- Examines the impact of disabilities, diseases, and defects on the lives of individuals. With this information, the NICHD hopes to restore, increase, and maximize the capabilities of people affected by disease and injury.
- Sponsors training programs for scientists, doctors, and researchers to ensure that NICHD research can continue. By training these professionals in the latest research methods and technologies, the NICHD will be able to conduct its research and make health research progress until all children, adults, families, and populations enjoy good health.
Since it was founded, the efforts of the NICHD have successfully affected the lives of children, adults, and families in a number of ways, including:
- Infant deaths have dropped more than 70 percent, mostly due to NICHD research that introduced new ways to treat and prevent infant breathing problems, manage the care of premature infants, and reduce and prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
- Many causes of mental retardation have been identified and, in some cases, eliminated as factors in brain development, as a result of NICHD research in preventing and correcting these conditions. Some of the causes of mental retardation that no longer pose threats to our children ’s health include Haemophilus influenzae Type B (HIB) meningitis (prevented by a vaccine developed by NICHD), phenylketonuria (PKU), congenital hypothyroidism, and jaundice.
- Infertility that at one time kept millions of couples from having babies of their own can now often be treated and reversed, thanks to NICHD research into fertility techniques and infertility treatments and causes.
- Advances in social, physical, and behavioral treatments for people with mental, developmental, and physical disabilities were made possible through NICHD research aimed at improving teaching methods, managing behavior, increasing mobility, and removing barriers to allow those with mental or physical disabilities to be active members of their communities. Progress made by the NICHD in rehabilitation and rehabilitation technology has also helped to change society’s attitudes about people with disabilities, which enables them to lead more normal lives.
- Sound, scientific information about the effectiveness of different contraceptive methods for women, men, and couples has resulted from NICHD research. In addition to developing scientific leads for new contraceptive methods, this research has provided important information about the factors that contribute to effective contraceptive use. Advances resulting from this research allow women, men, and couples to achieve their fertility desires.
- Transmission of HIV from infected mothers to their babies dropped from 25 percent to only 2 percent, following discoveries made by researchers at the NICHD and their colleagues in the medical and academic communities, and through the work of other NIH Institutes to reduce and prevent the spread of his disease. Treatment of HIV in children has also improved through the research efforts of the NICHD and other NIH Institutes.
Components and topics of study
The NICHD is made up of four centers and two divisions that conduct and support research on specific health areas and health topics. The list below includes the names of these centers and divisions, provides a short description of each, and shows some of the topics they study. For more information about each part of the NICHD, visit their Web sites, at the URLs listed below.
- The Center for Developmental Biology and Perinatal Medicine (CDBPM) is the NIH’s major source of research and training in maternal, fetal, and infant health, and disorders of human development. For more information, go to http://www.nichd.nih.gov/about/org/cdbpm/. Some of the topics the Center studies include the following:
- Pregnancy, birth, infancy, and child health and development
- High-risk pregnancy, preterm birth, low birth weight, newborn screening, infant mortality, and SIDS (biomedical, prevention, & education research)
- Developmental biology, birth defects, genetic disorders, developmental disabilities (including autism spectrum disorders), and mental retardation
- The Center for Population Research (CPR) carries out the main effort of the United States government in population studies through support of research and research training in the biomedical, behavioral, and social sciences. For more information, go to http://www.nichd.nih.gov/about/org/cpr/. Some of the topics the Center studies include the following:
- Male and female reproductive biology, processes, and disorders affecting fertility and infertility
- Contraceptive development and evaluation, family planning
- Reproductive and family formation behaviors and influences
- Sexually transmitted disease and HIV prevention
- Determinants of population change and consequences of population change for the health and well-being of communities and societies
- The Center for Research for Mothers and Children (CRMC) is the NIH’s main source of research and training in the areas of child and maternal health, including HIV/AIDS. For more information, go to http://www.nichd.nih.gov/about/org/crmc/. Some of the topics the Center studies include the following:
- Pediatric, adolescent, and female HIV/AIDS
- Over-the-counter and prescription drug safety and effectiveness in children and pregnant women
- Influences on learning (including reading and literacy), behavior, and social development
- Physical growth, maturity, and nutrition
- The Division of Epidemiology, Statistics, and Prevention Research (DESPR) conducts epidemiological, statistical, and behavioral research on fertility, pregnancy outcomes, birth defects, child health, and adolescent health. DESPR has three branches: Epidemiology, Biometry and Mathematical Statistics, and Prevention Research. For more information, go to http://www.nichd.nih.gov/about/org/despr/. Some of the topics the Division studies include the following:
- Fertility, pregnancy, child growth, and development
- Methods to promote healthy behavior
- Congenital diseases, their effects and treatments
- Vaccine testing, pediatric infectious disease and injury prevention, development and evaluation of treatments
- Management and oversight of the National Children’s Study
- The Division of Intramural Research (DIR) explores the biological and neurobiological, medical and behavioral aspects of normal and abnormal human growth. The DIR includes clinical research branches and training programs in the areas of genetics, endocrinology, and maternal-fetal medicine; it also includes a number of basic research laboratories and branches that study a variety of developmental models. For more information, go to http://dir.nichd.nih.gov/. Some of the topics the Division studies include the following:
- Genes and genetic function, repair, and effects on disease and health
- Hormones and their effects on growth, metabolism, and reproduction
- Immune system development and disorders, including basic research and vaccine development
- Nervous system development and disorders
- Hormonal, genetic, and social influences on behavior
- Maternal-fetal medicine, including high-risk pregnancy
- Immune system development and disorders, including basic HIV/AIDS research and vaccine development
- Developmental models, including early development and cell specialization
- Cell, theoretic, and physical biology
- Biology and regulation of development in model and human systems
- The National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research (NCMRR) sponsors projects and training to promote the health, productivity, independence, and quality-of-life of people with disabilities. The NCMRR supports programs to improve rehabilitation methods, technology, and lifelong care so that those with physical disabilities from disease, injury, or disorder can live life to its fullest. For more information, go to http://www.nichd.nih.gov/about/org/ncmrr/. Some of the topics the Center studies include the following:
- Improving movement, promoting neuroplasticity and recovery, adapting to a disability, and understanding body-injury responses
- Health promotion and prevention of injury and disability
- Technology development to improve the diagnosis, treatment, and everyday functioning of people with disabilities
- Developing assistive devices and bioengineering technologies to promote function and participation
- Evaluating rehabilitation effectiveness, specificity, access, and health policy
- Training researchers and medical professionals in rehabilitation methods and techniques
Other health information
The NICHD provides a variety of information in brochures, booklets, and other materials related to the health of children, adults, families, and populations. Much of this information is based on NICHD research into these areas.
In addition, the NICHD supports health education programs and outreach campaigns, including:
- The "Program Archive on Sexuality, Health, and Adolescence (PASHA)", a joint effort between Sociometrics Corporation and the NICDH is a collection of effective program replication kits designed to reduce teen pregnancy and STI/HIV/AIDS in adolescents. For more information, visit http://www.socio.com/pasha.php.
- The Back to Sleep campaign educates families and caregivers about ways to help reduce the risk of SIDS, such as placing healthy babies on their backs to sleep for naps and at night. The campaign offers free education materials and items. For more information about Back to Sleep, call 1-800-505-CRIB (2742), or visit http://www.nichd.nih.gov/SIDS.
- The Milk Matters calcium education campaign teaches parents, children, and health care providers about the importance of getting enough calcium during the pre-teen and teen years to build strong bones that will last a lifetime. Milk Matters offers free health education materials. For more information on Milk Matters, call 1-800-370-2943, or visit http://www.nichd.nih.gov/milk.
- Media-Smart Youth: Eat, Think, and Be Active! is an interactive after-school education program that helps young people ages 11 to 13 understand the complex media world around them, and how it can influence their health, especially in regard to nutrition and physical activity. The Media-Smart Youth program packet is available free to adults interested in leading the program with youth. For more information on Media-Smart Youth, call 1-800-370-2943, or visit http://www.nichd.nih.gov/msy.
The NICHD’s Web site, http://www.nichd.nih.gov, is the primary way to get information on health topics that fall within the Institute’s research portfolio. The site describes some of the research conducted and supported by the NICHD, provides resources for researchers, outlines funding opportunities (including fellowships, training, and education) for researchers, offers the latest Institute news and media, and provides general information about the NICHD. This easy-to-navigate site also includes the following health information:
- A to Z Health and Human Development Topics—This section answers basic questions about more than 100 health topics, including infant health, bone health and nutrition, obesity and overweight, reading and learning, and developmental disabilities.
- Clinical Research and Clinical Trials—This section describes research that involves people and lists all of the current clinical trials the NICHD is conducting and supporting.
- Health Education—The NICHD has a number of health education Web sites listed here for easy access, including the Back to Sleep campaign, the Milk Matters campaign, and the Media-Smart Youth program.
- Publications and Materials—This database allows users to search publications available from the NICHD by keyword and type of materials, view and download publications, and order materials online.
The NICHD Information Resource Center is also a valuable source for NICHD materials and health related information. Information specialists at the NICHD Information Resource Center can assist you in:
- Ordering brochures, booklets, fact sheets, research reports, and other publications.
- Finding health-related information from a variety of organizations.
- Obtaining information about the NICHD’s health education campaigns and programs.
The Public Information and Communications Branch (PICB) is an in-house resource for information about the NICHD, its staff, and the research it conducts. The Branch publishes and distributes information for the media, researchers, and health care providers.
- NICHD website
- National Institutes of Health website
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website
- (TRIS) Tracking Rare Incidence Syndromes
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