We use observational and intervention studies to address the developmental origins non communicable disease.

We are using observational studies of mothers and children, in the Southampton Women’s Survey and other cohorts, to understand how maternal and early childhood factors influence the development of body composition and later health. Our particular focus is on adiposity but we are also examining the development of cardiovascular, respiratory and neuro-psychological health in order to achieve a holistic view of the likely benefits and potential risks of future interventions.

We are working with many colleagues around the world to study the mechanisms that link maternal and early childhood factors to later risk of disease. Identification of mechanisms will enable us to identify biomarkers that assist in the development of new interventions to improve public health, and to characterise intermediate outcomes measures in trials. Our work focuses on modifiable influences on epigenetic processes. These processes constitute changes to gene expression as a response to the early environment. We then look at the relationship between epigenetics around the time of birth and later phenotypes.

We have developed a number of interventions, informed by the findings of our observational and mechanistic studies. The aim of these interventions is to enhance the health of parents and improve a child’’s start in life by improving the health outcomes and healthy behaviours of women and children.  Our epigenetic studies have informed the development of NiPPeR a trial of a nutritional drink before and during pregnancy to assess its effects on reducing impaired glucose tolerance in late pregnancy.  Other interventions include the Southampton Initiative for Health, which assessed the effect of training Sure Start Centre workers to hold ‘’healthy conversations’’ with women attending the centres, LifeLab, an intervention aimed at improving the health behaviours of teenagers, and SPRING, which is an extension of MAVIDOS (see Programme 1) to include ‘‘healthy conversations’’ during pregnancy