The Developmental Origins of
Health and Disease
As fetuses, we develop within our mother’s womb. Here, many factors are involved in determining our risk of developing diseases like Type 2 diabetes or obesity. Our disease risk is not only influenced by our genetics, but how environmental signals within the womb interact with our developing bodies. For example, our mothers and fathers' stress hormones, nutrition, and oxygen levels can completely change how our bodies will develop. Not only will these factors affect how we develop as babies, children, and adults on their own, but they also interact with the environment that we grow up in (outside of the womb) to determine the course of our adult health. The science behind this idea that our health is affected by our parents' health before and during pregnancy and our environment for our first 1,000 days of life is called the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease.
Using the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, we see that healthy communities start by ensuring that everyone has a healthy start to life. By supporting those that are or want to become pregnant, we are investing in more productive and capable future generations.
Think about this investment like taking care of a houseplant. In order for a houseplant to live for a long time, we know we need to give it lots of sunlight and water. Right now, our houseplant isn't getting much water or sunlight - we have few supports that ensure that individuals stay healthy before and during pregnancy. As time goes on, we'll need to invest a lot of time and money to help save our houseplant - something that we could have avoided if we took better care of it early on. This is the same with our current healthcare system. If we invest in health before and during pregnancy, we can prevent chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes and make more healthcare resources available to those who need them.