Emory Report
December 8, 2008
Volume 61, Number 14



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December 8
, 2008
Fetal life linked to future well-being

By Robin Tricoles

According to physician and researcher David Barker, early development — including fetal development — is intimately related to humans’ long-term health and well-being. Speaking as part of the Predictive Health and Society lecture series, Barker reviewed evidence of how early growth and development can predict adult health.

Barker is internationally renowned for the groundbreaking discovery identifying small size at birth as a risk factor for coronary heart disease and diabetes in adulthood, an observation with profound health implications. This led to the recognition that a range of chronic diseases can have their origins during fetal life. His “Barker Hypothesis” has irreversibly influenced the way in which science and society can confront health and well-being across the life cycle.

“Dr. Barker is interesting in that his work focuses on areas of science and medicine that seem to sometimes be forgotten — that our early development has very real and significant impact on our adult physical well-being,” says Lynn Cunningham, administrative director of the Emory/Georgia Tech Predictive Health Institute. “How often do we consider what our mother’s diet and behavior, even pre-conception, has to do with our health today? The Barker lecture was an inspiration to rediscover and reexamine the connection between early development and adult disease risk.”

The seminar was sponsored by the Emory Predictive Health and Society Initiative, part of the University’s strategic plan.