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Women in Cache County are about to be asked to sign up their unborn children for a national study on children's health.

The National Institutes of Health announced Wednesday that 30 new study locations are about to start recruiting for the National Children's Study, the largest, long-term look at children's health ever conducted in the United States. It aims to follow 100,000 children from before birth to age 21 to understand how the foods they eat, water they drink and chemicals they are exposed to interact with their genes to cause or prevent diseases.

The study launched in Salt Lake County, along with six other locations, last year. So far, 255 Utah women have joined and 103 babies have been born into the study.

The study is still in a pilot phase. Cache County is part of a test of recruitment strategies. Instead of recruiters knocking on doors, as they are in Salt Lake County, women in the half of Cache County that is eligible to participate will receive a questionnaire in the mail. Those that are interested and fit the criteria — they plan to become pregnant — will be enrolled.

The other new sites that will start recruiting will test other enrollment strategies. While knocking on doors worked in Salt Lake County, other sites have struggled to overcome distrust or to get into gated communities.

Over the next four years, the University of Utah's Department of Pediatrics — in charge of the study in Utah — wants to enroll 1,000 women from Cache County.

The U. will formally launch the northern Utah portion in mid- to late-October.

Heather May