Prenatal and childhood development influences health and disease risk for the entirety of an individual’s lifespan. The molecular underpinnings of diseases such as asthma, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and neuropsychiatric diseases originate in pre- and early postnatal life. These biological processes can be exacerbated by extrinsic factors such as environmental exposures, socioeconomic status and stress that, over time, result in adult diseases that represent substantial health care and economic burdens.
An impressive body of highly-regarded research has demonstrated that early childhood development directly influences long-term health, economic and social outcomes for individuals and society. Early exposure to adverse influences – social, economic, health or environmental – can create health deficits that last a lifetime. By identifying early risk factors and mitigating prevention and treatment strategies, the health of society as a whole can be improved.
Duke's research will inform early prevention, risk screening and treatment, as well as provide training opportunities for the next generation of clinician-scientists to learn from Duke’s cadre of experts.