DOHaD Africa

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Locally-relevant solutions to Covid-19 in Africa

A Covid19 Conversation and a Jam-Packed Newsletter
African scientists, scholars and policymakers respond to Covid-19”
At the time of writing, Africa’s confirmed Covid-19 cases stood at 34 924. While this is less than anticipated, the growth curve is on the rise, and the rollout of testing and surveillance has been erratic and inconsistent across the continent.

As researchers of the developmental origins of health and disease in Africa, we can posit that the impact of Covid-19 will affect health and wellbeing. What do things like food insecurity, economic precariousness and the mental health of pregnant women have on the fetus? We look forward to showcasing this research.

There is also an incredible opportunity to confront and tackle the seemingly intractable challenges in Africa. A group of African academics wrote a poignant article, expressing an important insight: “More than ever, we call upon (African) leaders to…adopt a concerted approach to governance sectors related to public health, fundamental research in all disciplines and to public policy. In the same vein, health has to be conceived as an essential public good…The African continent must take its destiny back into its own hands. For it is in the most trying moments that new/innovative orientations must be explored and lasting solutions adopted.”


Fellowships for talented African early career researchers – deadline 27 May 2020
Future Leaders – African Independent Research (FLAIR) Fellowships are for talented African early career researchers who have the potential to become leaders in their field. These fellowships provide the opportunity to build an independent research career in a sub-Saharan African institution and to undertake cutting-edge scientific research that will address global challenges facing developing countries. More information is available HERE.


International DoHAD experts weigh in on Covid19
We interviewed Professor Stephen Lye about the impact of Covid-19 on the developmental origins of health and disease. Professor Lye is the Executive Director of the Fraser Mustard Institute for Human Development, University of Toronto. He is an international expert in women’s and infant’s health and pioneered investigations into the mechanisms underlying preterm birth.

Professor Lye said: “While it appears that children may not be as likely to suffer direct effects of Covid-19 infection, there are many reasons to be concerned that the pandemic may have longer term effect on the health and wellbeing of these children, as well as the children likely to be born over the next few months.  Poverty, abuse and stress within families before, during and after pregnancy is known to impact developmental trajectories of children through mechanisms involving epigenetics (impacting the genetic blueprint for development in children) the effects of which that can even be past on to future generations.  It is critical that we assist young women and young mothers so that they can provide care to their children that buffers them against these adverse experiences.

“A women’s health (including her nutritional status) that she takes into a pregnancy is key, not only to the success of that pregnancy, but also to the future health and cognitive development of her child.  Good nutrition, including caloric intake, a balanced diet and consumption of micronutrients preconception provides a young woman with an optimal basis to support her health during pregnancy and reduce the likelihood of pregnancy complications such as preterm birth.  Optimal preconception health and nutrition also supports the growth and development of her baby when she becomes pregnant and during infancy childhood.  Poor nutrition preconception and during pregnancy can cause stunting of fetal growth, including brain growth and development. The developing fetal brain requires sufficient calories to provide energy for multiplication of brain cells (neurons) that underlies brain growth – indeed the majority of calories a fetus and newborn goes to support brain growth. A balanced diet (protein, lipids and micronutrients) is also essential to support the formation connections (synapses) between neurons that underlies how the brain functions, and supports sensory, language and cognitive development.

“Covid-19 should be a wake-up call for all countries (including LMICs) that more attention needs to be placed on ensuring that health systems (especially public health systems) are adequately resourced to support the health of their populations during times of crises, such as pandemics.  If this is achieved (and it’s a big if) then this could have positive impacts of the wider health and well-being of young women and their children that would have significant longer-term benefits to these countries, in terms of a healthier population and one that is better equipped to a support a country’s economic productivity.”



The 12th World Congress on Development Origins of Health and Disease will take place in Vancouver, Canada, from 16-19 October 2021.

Its theme will be Social and environmental disruption in DOHaD: successful interventions for a healthy future.

View the welcome video from that congress here.


DOHaD Africa Chapter's virtual home is hosted by the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Human Development in partnership with South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology and the National Research Foundation.