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Scientific journals from around the world have agreed to take part this year in a global themed issue on Aging—an initiative coordinated by JAMA. How do we justify a contribution from the Archives of Disease in Childhood to this important theme? One thing that distinguishes paediatric practice is that health and disease are observed against a background of growth and development. Perhaps analogous to this is the practice of geriatrics, where biological senescence and all its psycho-social implications, form the backdrop against which health and disease are observed. Yet this philosophy becomes clouded when we consider that development and aging (or senescence) cannot be readily pulled apart. Although development implies an advantageous adaption to life, and aging implies irreversible deterioration, it is none the less true that development is not only a precursor of aging but also influences it profoundly.
A review article by Aihie Sayer et al on pages F162–4 poses the somewhat depressing question: Is lifespan determined in utero? It is not surprising that it might be, given the association between poor fetal growth and an increased prevalence of cardiovascular disease in adults. However, these authors draw attention to poor growth in …