Despite leadership in medical technology and biomedical research, health outcomes in the US are often more dependent on zip code than DNA code. Almost half of premature mortality in low-income US populations can be attributed to lifestyle factors such as smoking, lack of physical activity, and poor nutrition.
The Perinatal Origins of Disparities Center brings together behavioral science and technology research to better understand – and ultimately intervene in – prenatal and early life factors that affect later life health, specifically factors that are disproportionately present in disadvantaged communities. This comprehensive focus on perinatal origins of disparities has the potential to prevent the intergenerational transmission of familial, social, and behavioral determinants of poor health.
The perinatal period, defined as pre-conception through early infancy, is a critical window for interventions. Expectant mothers and fathers may be more motivated to make lifestyle changes and more receptive to risk prevention education to optimize their child’s outcomes and increase their own longevity, especially if they have genetic susceptibilities.
Globally, Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DoHaD) is a premise that demonstrates that pre-conception and intrauterine exposures have lifelong consequences on health. Originating with observations of the long-term effects of perinatal famine in humans, this research concentration has grown through recent advances in the fields of epigenetics and epidemiology.