Formation of the Africa Chapter of DOHaD
Developmental origins of health and disease in Africa—influencing early life: Article in The Lancet
Justine Ina Davies, Andrew John Macnab, Peter Byass, Shane A Norris, Moffat Nyirenda, Atul Singhal, et al.
It is well established that Africa is undergoing rapid transitions resulting in a triple burden of malnutrition, infectious diseases, and non-communicable diseases (NCDs).1, 2 That health systems are unlikely to be able to cope with this burden is also widely noted.1, 2 What is less often discussed outside academic circles is the degree to which infectious diseases and malnutrition in Africa are exacerbating the burden of NCDs, and the implications of this exacerbation for individuals and populations.
As described in the developmental origins of health and disease paradigm (DOHaD), and backed up by ample epidemiological data,3 early-life exposures influence later life likelihood of NCDs, because of probable epigenetic changes. These effects are intergenerational.4 Populations in Africa have been exposed to undernutrition for decades, but few studies have looked at the effect of early-life nutrition on later-life or cross-generational NCD risk on the continent.1, 5
To address gaps in knowledge and policy, we formed the Africa Chapter of the DOHaD Society, with support from the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS) and the African Academy of Sciences. The broad rationale for the Chapter is fourfold: first, to highlight the massive effects that early-life exposures will have on future burden of disease; second, to emphasise the dearth of knowledge around this subject and advocate for research funding to address this gap; third, to form a network of African scientists and collaborators from elsewhere to develop and study research questions relevant to DOHaD; and fourth, to build local capacity by encouraging and supporting young scientists in DOHaD-related research.