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International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health

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Diseases -- Causes and theories of causation, Disease susceptibility, Prenatal influences, Public health -- Social aspects, Medical policy -- Analysis


Social, health, and environmental policies are critical tools for providing the conditions needed for healthy populations. However, current policy analyses fall short of capturing their full potential impacts across the life course and from generation to generation. We argue that the field of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD), a conceptual and research framework positing that early life experiences significantly affect health trajectories across the lifespan and into future generations, provides an important lens through which to analyze social policies. To illustrate this point, we synthesized evidence related to policies from three domains—family leave, nutrition, and housing—to examine the health implications for multiple generations. We selected these policy domains because they represent increasing distance from a reproductive health focus, each with a growing evidence base to support a potential impact on pregnant women and their offspring. Each of these examples represents an opportunity to extend our understanding of policy impact using a DOHaD lens, taking into account the potential life course and intergenerational effects that have previously been overlooked.


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