The DOHaD concept describes how during early life (at conception, and/or during fetal life, infancy and early childhood), the environment induces changes in development that have long term impact on later health and disease risk. Environmental exposures including parental lifestyle and diet, smoking, obesity and exposure to endocrine disruptor chemicals/ toxin, have been shown to modulate disease risk. The effects of such exposures are often graded and subtle – they do not simply disrupt development or induce disease themselves – but can affect how rapidly disease develops in an individual.
It is thought that some of these developmental alterations come about through changes in the activity of genes through epigenetic processes. Changes in gene expression and/or action may mediate responses to challenges in adulthood, such as poor diet or unhealthy lifestyle, and so affect disease risk across the life course. Timely interventions may reduce such risk in individuals and also limit its transmission to the next generation. DOHaD thus has very important implications for many societies and for global health policy.
Research into DOHaD involves biomedical and social scientists from around the world, along with collaborations with the private sector. Members of the Society engage in clinical and experimental research that aims to understand the mechanisms underlying the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, its consequences for individuals and populations, and the devising of biomarkers of risk and preventative interventions. In addition to such research, the DOHaD Society promotes advocacy for a focus on early life in health promotion, the exchange of knowledge between policymakers, clinical and basic scientists and the wider public, and education and training to build capacity to assist a healthy start to life across populations.
Research into developmental origins of health and disease now involves scientists from many backgrounds. This society promotes cohesion and shared knowledge between groups working in different specialties and different countries.