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Developmental Origins of Life and Health


This paper explores the developmental origins of life and death by highlighting the need to address upstream health risks, as a public health management strategy. By exploring the challenges of adopting this approach, this paper recommends policy-centered interventions that could improve human health. However, before embarking on the details of this paper, this study explains how misconceptions about equality affect health outcomes.

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How the Phrase “We are all Born Equal” may constrain how Society thinks about Early Life

The belief that “all human being are equal” stemmed from the civil rights movement. It suggested that all people have equal opportunities for achieving success in education, health and life. This thinking affects how communities perceive human health because it creates an illusion that all people have the same probability of realizing positive health outcomes (Adelman, 2008). Particularly, it has an effect on how communities perceive early life because it suggests that all children are born the same and have the same chances of survival. Nurturing this idea creates inhibitions and challenges when advancing the need to reduce the burden of chronic diseases in human societies because people will not understand the role of varying upstream health risks in shaping future health outcomes.

Oversights of the belief, “We are all born Equal”

The belief “we are all born equal” overlooks the biological adversities that affect different communities. Some people are prone to these adversities, while others are not (Miller, Chen, and Cole, 2009). For example, a child born with a deformity, or disability, and grows up in an abusive family is not going to have the same health outcome as a healthy child born in a high-income family and grows up in a loving and supportive environment (Shonkoff, Boyce, and McEwen, 2009). Based on this understanding, there is a need to support upstream health management programs that strive to improve societal well-being, as a precursor to positive health outcomes.

Two ways that the Developmental Origins of Life and Death Influence Adult Morbidity

Experts have explored the role of the developmental origins of life on adult morbidity for more than three decades. They have explained several ways that infant health affects adult morbidity. For example, Wadhwa, Buss, Entringer, and Swanson (2009) say birth weight and adult deaths result in ischemic heart disease. A second way that developmental origins of life and death influence adult morbidity is fetal programming. For example, Wadhwa et al. (2009) found out that malnutrition, smoking, and drinking (during gestation) caused physical deformities in infants, thereby leading to permanent health problems. Some of these health problems could take years before they manifest.

Challenges of Addressing Upstream Risk and Protective Determinants of Health in Current Health Policies and Programs in America

Addressing upstream health risks and protective determinants of health is the best approach for managing most health problems (Halfon, 2009). A counter approach is investing a lot of money on treating existing diseases. Since the latter approach is expensive, it is wise to address health issues early in life (addressing upstream risk factors). However, many challenges inhibit the efficacy of health policies and programs that strive to do so. Existing knowledge gaps in early learning programs outline one such challenge. Another challenge is the lack of a universal application of health programs in different societies. Therefore, while health experts have underscored the importance of addressing upstream health risks and protective determinants of health, they need to seek guidance regarding how to use their knowledge on the ground.

Why they are Challenges

Cultural, economic and attitudinal differences affect the efficacy of health policies and programs (Adamson & UNICEF, 2010). While some of these differences may promote desirable health outcomes, some of them inhibit their realization. For example, certain health programs may not have the same outcomes in different cultural backgrounds (Gluckman, Hanson, and Mitchell, 2010). This scenario outlines a significant challenge for health workers because they constantly need to evaluate their programs to make sure they achieve their desired outcomes, within the desired context.

Suggestions for Improving Child Health for One Chronic Disease

Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects children and adults alike. Making sure children do at least 60 minutes of exercise a day is one way of preventing such chronic conditions. Similarly, making sure such children take a balanced diet is also another strategy for promoting good health within this demographic. These interventions are appropriate for managing diabetes because the condition is a lifestyle problem and its cure depends on the same (lifestyle changes).

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Impact of Childhood Policies and Programs on Lifelong Health References

A healthy and productive society develops on the backdrop of sound childhood development policies and programs (Bezruchka, 2005). These policies and programs would make sure there is a good groundwork for a lifetime of vitality, by educating people about the importance of early life health management and the need for adopting healthy lifestyles. These measures highlight the need for adopting upstream health management programs as a precursor to disease prevention (World Health Organization, 2010).


This paper highlights the need to focus on the developmental origins of life and death as an effective disease prevention strategy. Unlike curative interventions (that characterize the American health care system), addressing upstream health risks would reduce adult morbidity. This assertion means that social and economic inequalities affect health outcomes. Therefore, there is a need to overcome the challenges that prevent policymakers from improving the health outcomes of disadvantaged members of the society and embrace interventions that promote positive health outcomes.


Adamson, P., & UNICEF. (2010). The children left behind: A league table of inequality in child well-being in the world’s most rich countries. Florence, Italy: UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre.

Adelman, L. (Executive producer). (2008). Unnatural Causes: Episode 2—When the bough breaks [DVD]. United States: Public Broadcasting Service.

Bezruchka, S. (2005). From womb to tomb: The influence of early childhood on adult health. Web.

Gluckman, P. D., Hanson, M. A., & Mitchell, M. D. (2010). Developmental origins of health and disease: Reducing the burden of chronic disease in the next generation. Genome Medicine, 2(2), 14.

Halfon, N. (2009). Life course health development: A new approach for addressing upstream determinants of health and spending. Web.

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Miller, G., Chen, E., & Cole, S. W. (2009). Health psychology: Developing biologically plausible models linking the social world and physical health. Annual Review of Psychology, 60(1), 501–524.

Shonkoff, J. P., Boyce, W. T., & McEwen, B. S. (2009). Neuroscience, molecular biology, and the childhood roots of health disparities: Building a new framework for health promotion and disease prevention. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 301(21), 2252–2259.

Wadhwa, P., Buss, C., Entringer, S., and Swanson, J. (2009). Developmental Origins of Health and Disease: Brief History of the Approach and Current Focus on Epigenetic Mechanisms. Semin Reprod Med, 27(5), 358–368.

World Health Organization. (2010). Good health in youth sets the stage for well-being in later life. Web.

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