Developmental Origins, Epigenetics, and Equity: Moving Upstream

Lawrence Wallack, Kent Thornburg

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    49 Scopus citations


    The Developmental Origins of Health and Disease and the related science of epigenetics redefines the meaning of what constitutes upstream approaches to significant social and public health problems. An increasingly frequent concept being expressed is “When it comes to your health, your zip code may be more important than your genetic code”. Epigenetics explains how the environment—our zip code—literally gets under our skin, creates biological changes that increase our vulnerability for disease, and even children’s prospects for social success, over their life course and into future generations. This science requires us to rethink where disease comes from and the best way to promote health. It identifies the most fundamental social equity issue in our society: that initial social and biological disadvantage, established even prior to birth, and linked to the social experience of prior generations, is made worse by adverse environments throughout the life course. But at the same time, it provides hope because it tells us that a concerted focus on using public policy to improve our social, physical, and economic environments can ultimately change our biology and the trajectory of health and social success into future generations.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)935-940
    Number of pages6
    JournalMaternal and Child Health Journal
    Issue number5
    StatePublished - May 1 2016


    • Barker Hypothesis
    • Developmental origins
    • Epigenetics
    • Health equity
    • Upstream
    • Zipcode

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
    • Epidemiology
    • Obstetrics and Gynecology
    • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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