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First 1,000 days after conception predict level of chronic disease later in life

Hundreds of renowned scientists from around the world will attend the 7th World Congress on Developmental Origins of Health and Disease in Portland, Ore., to present the latest research and consider ways to alter current chronic disease epidemics

It’s not just poor lifestyle choices or bad genes that lead to serious health problems, it’s what happens in the womb that predicts most, if not all, chronic disease later in life, according to a team of leading-edge clinicians and scientists studying developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD) at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Ore. The OHSU Heart Research Center team, one of the largest and best-known DOHaD research groups in the world, is co-hosting the World Congress on Developmental Origins of Health and Disease at the Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront Hotel Sept. 18 – 21.

More than 650 researchers, health care professionals and students from 40 countries will present and discuss the latest findings on the burgeoning science that’s changing how medicine is practiced. During the conference, DOHaD experts will:

  • Present and discuss the latest research on the relationships between mother’s health, early human development and disease later in life.
  • Focus on factors such as poor nutrition and environmental stressors that, by impairing the well-being of mothers, babies in the womb and young children around the globe, enhance vulnerability to later chronic disease in current and future generations.
  • Consider how scientists, public health officials and legislators can come together to develop public health strategies, promote research and engage communities to implement change.

The founder of the field of developmental origins of health and disease, David J.P. Barker, M.D., Ph.D., F.R.S., an OHSU professor of medicine (cardiovascular medicine) and a professor of clinical epidemiology at the University of Southampton, UK, will speak during the World Congress opening presentation, which focuses on the global challenges of developmental disease.

Barker, honorary president of the World Congress on DOHaD, and Kent L. Thornburg, Ph.D., an internationally acclaimed DOHaD scientist and director of the OHSU Heart Research Center, are longtime research collaborators. Currently they are exploring the unique and critical role of the placenta as the maternal-fetal interface, impacting all types of disease outcomes later in life – cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, hypertension, obesity, some cancers, osteoporosis — and its emerging potential as an accessible and powerful biomarker of future disease.

“Many health care providers and public health professionals don’t know about the field of developmental origins of health and disease. They don’t know that adverse conditions in the womb, such as maternal diet and obesity, maternal stress or toxic exposures, are critically important in determining a person’s vulnerability to the negative impacts of lifestyle choices,” explained Thornburg. “The health of the next generation will be largely determined by the body compositions and diets of today’s girls and young women.”

Two World Congress lectures, one for the general public and the other for health care providers and public health professionals, are free:

Thursday, Sept. 22, 7 p.m.

“What Makes Us the Way We Are: The New Science of Fetal Origins,” a public lecture by The New York Times best-selling author of “Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives,” Annie Murphy Paul, at Portland State University’s Lincoln Hall, 1620 S.W. Park Ave., Portland, OR 97201. The lecture is sponsored by The Struble Foundation/Music for the Heart, OHSU Heart Research Center and the March of Dimes (Greater Oregon Chapter). Preregistration is recommended.

Tuesday, Sept. 20, noon

An international scientific brown bag symposium for health care providers and public health professionals featuring presentations on:

  • “Why Preconception Matters,” Thomas Fleming, Ph.D., University of Southampton
  • “Preconception Health and Healthcare Initiatives,” Janis Biermann, March of Dimes
  • “An Integrated Perinatal Health Framework,” Dawn Misra, Ph.D., Wayne State University

The symposium will be held at the Portland Marriott, Downtown Waterfront Hotel, Salon F, Lower Level, 1401 S.W. Naito Parkway, Portland, OR 97239. It has been developed in cooperation with OHSU and the national March of Dimes.

“Through the World Congress on DOHaD and partnerships with public agencies and organizations like the March of Dimes, we hope to better understand developmental programming, thus creating economically sensible programs and policies that can benefit the future health of mothers and their children around the world,” said Susan Bagby, M.D., a leading DOHaD scientist, professor of medicine (nephrology and hypertension) at OHSU and chair of the World Congress on DOHaD organizing committee, which also includes Barker, Thornburg and Dennis M. Bier, M.D., Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.

For a comprehensive list of World Congress on DOHaD scientific presentations, visit

The 7th World Congress on DOHaD is sponsored by: Oregon Health & Science University, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, March of Dimes, National Institutes of Health: NICHD/NIEHS, Abbott Nutrition, Regence, International Atomic Energy Agency, OHSU Heart Research Center, OHSU Foundation, Barker Foundation: Nutrition for a Lifetime, Mead Johnson Nutrition, Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods, Northwest Health Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Division of Reproductive Health, Company of Biologists, Yamhill Valley Vineyard, Music for the Heart, First Republic Bank, ODS Health, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, Fisher Scientific.

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