Largest study to investigate risk factors of autism to begin enrolling families

November 14, 2007

OAKLAND, Calif., November 14, 2007 -- Researchers from Kaiser Permanente and the California Department of Public Health, as well as from five other sites nationwide, today will begin enrolling families in the largest study to date investigating the genetic and environmental factors that may cause autism and other developmental disabilities.

The five-year research study, called the Study to Explore Early Development, will involve 2,700 children and their parents from six areas around the nation, including Santa Clara and Alameda counties. The study is open to both Kaiser Permanente members and non-members with children who were born from September 2003 to August 2005 in Santa Clara and Alameda counties. Children with autism and other neuro-developmental impairments (developmental delays), as well as children with typical development, will be studied and are being recruited.

"We hope this study will help us learn more about the factors that may lead to autism and other developmental disabilities, and how genes and the environment may affect child development," said Lisa A. Croen, PhD, the study's local principal investigator and an epidemiologist with Kaiser Permanente's Division of Research in Oakland, Calif. "The results may also contribute to better services and treatments for affected children and to prevention strategies."

For reasons not fully understood, autism is on the rise, affecting on average about one in 150 children born in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which also is involved in this study. The chronic, lifelong condition affects the normal functioning of the brain, impacting development of social and communication skills. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released guidelines recommending all children be screened for autism between the ages of 18 and 24 months, even if parents haven't expressed any particular concerns.

"The new national recommendation for regular screening of children for autism has raised the community awareness of the importance of early diagnosis of autism in order to help children and families," said Dr. Marc Lerner, MD, FAAP, the American Academy of Pediatrics' Chair of State Government Affairs for California. "What is now needed is research like the SEED study to understand the reasons behind the dramatic growth in the diagnosis of autism, which will help us to address prevention and treatment."

Factors that will be studied include family medical history; genetics; and socio-demographic, lifestyle and environmental factors. Study information will be obtained by conducting interviews and exams, reviewing medical records, collecting cheek swabs, and blood and hair sampling, according to Pilar Bernal, MD, medical director of Kaiser Permanente's Regional Program for Autism Spectrum Disorders. Kaiser Permanente maintains two autism centers - one in San Jose, Calif., and another in Rancho Cordova, Calif., a suburb of Sacramento.
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Kaiser Permanente's Northern California Regional Program for Autism Spectrum Disorders provides evidence-based care and specializes in early detection and treatment. Planning for the Northern California regional program began in 2001 and clinicians began opening centers of excellence in 2004. The program uses a multidisciplinary approach that includes pediatric care; evaluation, diagnosis and treatment; child psychiatry and child psychology; neurology; genetics; gastroenterology; nutrition, speech and language; and occupational therapy. The Northern California Regional Program provides education and support for parents through interventions that are evidence based; educates providers who work with children throughout Santa Clara County; and coordinates services for children and their families to ensure that services are family-centered and culturally competent.

Funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, other SEED study sites are the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment; Johns Hopkins University in Maryland; the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and the University of Pennsylvania. The CDC also is participating in the study, and will include children and their parents from the metropolitan Atlanta area.

To learn more about the SEED study, including eligibility and enrollment information, contact 510-620-3700 or (866) 470-6115.

About Kaiser Permanente Division of Research

The Kaiser Permanente Division of Research conducts, publishes, and disseminates epidemiologic and health services research to improve the health and medical care of Kaiser Permanente members and the society at large. It seeks to understand the determinants of illness and well being and to improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of health care. Currently, the center's 400-plus staff is working on more than 250 epidemiological and health services research projects.

About Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente is America's leading integrated health plan. Founded in 1945, it is a not-for-profit; group practice prepayment program headquartered in Oakland, Calif. Kaiser Permanente serves the health care needs of more than 8.7 million members in nine states and the District of Columbia. Today it encompasses the not-for-profit Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and their subsidiaries, and the for-profit Permanente Medical Groups. Nationwide, Kaiser Permanente includes approximately 156,000 technical, administrative and clerical employees and caregivers, and more than 13, 000 physicians representing all specialties. For more Kaiser Permanente news, visit the KP News Center at: http://xnet.kp.org/newscenter.

www.kaiserpermanente.org

Kaiser Permanente

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