A poor start to life is associated with an increased risk of a number of disorders, especially non-communicable diseases, throughout the lifecourse. These disorders include cardiovascular disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and metabolic disturbances, osteoporosis, chronic obstructive lung disease, some forms of cancer and some mental illnesses.

The DOHaD concept describes how during early life (at conception, and/or during fetal life, infancy and early childhood), the environment induces changes in development that have long term impact on later health and disease risk. Environmental exposures including parental lifestyle and diet, smoking, obesity and exposure to endocrine disruptor chemicals/ toxin, have been shown to modulate disease risk. The effects of such exposures are often graded and subtle – they do not simply disrupt development or induce disease themselves – but can affect how rapidly disease develops in an individual.

It is thought that some of these developmental alterations come about through changes in the activity of genes through epigenetic processes. Changes in gene expression and/or action may mediate responses to challenges in adulthood, such as poor diet or unhealthy lifestyle, and so affect disease risk across the life course. Timely interventions may reduce such risk in individuals and also limit its transmission to the next generation. DOHaD thus has very important implications for many societies and for global health policy.

Research into DOHaD involves biomedical and social scientists from around the world, along with collaborations with the private sector. Members of the Society engage in clinical and experimental research that aims to understand the mechanisms underlying the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, its consequences for individuals and populations, and the devising of biomarkers of risk and preventative interventions. In addition to such research, the DOHaD Society promotes advocacy for a focus on early life in health promotion, the exchange of knowledge between policymakers, clinical and basic scientists and the wider public, and education and training to build capacity to assist a healthy start to life across populations.

Research into developmental origins of health and disease now involves scientists from many backgrounds. This society promotes cohesion and shared knowledge between groups working in different specialties and different countries.

(The information above comes directly from DOHaD International).


The Canadian DOHaD Society is a group of researchers that have come together under one banner. The Society is managed by a Council of Officers including an Executive and Regional Representatives. The Secretariat and administrative centre is based at the Alliance for Human Development, Lunenfeld Tanenbaum Research Institute, Mount Sinai Health System. The Council membership moves around the country.

The founding composition of officials and interim Council members are as follows:

Stephen G. Matthews, PhD

Professor, Physiology, Obstetrics & Gynaecology and Medicine
Associate Scientist, Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, Sinai Health System
Faculty of Medicine
University of Toronto

Deborah M Sloboda, PhD

Canada Research Chair Perinatal Programming
Associate Professor Biochemistry & Biomed Sciences
Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute
Obstetrics & Gynecology & Pediatrics
McMaster University

Secretary/ Treasurer:
Timothy R.H. Regnault, PhD
Associate Professor
Depts of Obstetrics and Gynaecology/Physiology and Pharmacology
Western University

Administrative Support:
Victoria De Luca, MMSt
Alliance for Human Development

Interim Council

Interim leadership group with representation from the different provinces across Canada: