Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) affect all countries and people of all ages, and WHO has identified them as the “world’s biggest killers”. NCDs include obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular, chronic lung, musculoskeletal, mental and neurological disorders. The Department of Health now advocates a lifecourse approach to disease prevention from pre-conception through pregnancy, infancy, early years, childhood, adolescence and teenage years, and through to adulthood and preparing for older age.
We have contributed to the development of a lifecourse approach to NCDs. Our work in this area dates back to the early 1990s and the launch of the Southampton Womens Survey (SWS) in 1998. Through our research, we have identified aspects of maternal diet, lifestyle and body composition that influence the development and body composition of their children. Using detailed ultrasound measurements and genetic and metabolic tests we have begun to identify mechanisms that underlie these associations. These insights have enabled us to develop interventions to address nutrition and lifestyle at critical stages of the lifecourse.
The aim of our programme is to prevent NCDs through improvement in early development and body composition. We are investigating the mechanisms that underlie the developmental origins of NCDs and developing intervention studies that aim to modify later disease risk through nutrition and lifestyle interventions targeted at critical periods of early development.