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 parents 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.
The UC Davis POD Center has six parts to its mission:
- To understand multifactorial perinatal influences on health trajectories and disparities across the lifespan
- To apply interdisciplinary science and technology to the challenge of eliminating health disparities in the 21st century
- To increase the proportion of underrepresented minorities in science and medicine
- To train the next generation of scientists to approach research using an interdisciplinary lens
- To engage, educate, and empower families to reduce health disparities for themselves and within their communities
- To serve as a model learning laboratory for reducing perinatal origins of disparities through innovative interventions
The video above was created by POD Center Trainees and won second place in The Science Coalition Student Video Challenge 2020 (titled "Julia Mouat, UC Davis").