Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD)

We love big ideas. So we’re excited about the science of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD), the next frontier in increasing health equity. MG recently teamed up with Oregon Health and Science University and Portland State University to explore implications for public health advocacy, policy and programs.

In a nutshell, DOHaD establishes that vulnerability for chronic diseases, mental health problems and learning challenges originate in the earliest developmental stages—the first 1,000 days from conception to about age two. This is because a pregnant mother’s toxic stress—caused by lack of access to nutritious food, poverty, trauma and other conditions—can alter the way her growing baby’s genes express themselves. These changes affect that baby’s health all the way into adulthood, and can be passed on to the next generation.

This science raises a red flag to say that the conditions we’ve created for people have a multi-generational impact on health, opportunity and equity. It points directly at the cycles of poverty, discrimination and racism that created and continue to perpetuate those conditions. But at the same time, it provides hope by showing that a concerted focus on improving our environments can ultimately change the trajectory of disease into future generations.

We hosted a gathering of about 20 social change influencers to brainstorm ways we can leverage this science to create large-scale social change. We’re exploring options and continuing the conversation.

To learn more, check out these resources: