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Fetal and early environment: Long term health implications.Editors Michael E Marmot, Michael E J Wadsworth. (Pp 227; £45 hardback.) Royal Society of Medicine Press, 1997. ISBN 1-85315-316-8.
For the first half of this century the fetus and newborn infant received scant attention from the medical profession after the conversion of the physician–accoucheurs into surgeon–gynaecologists. Rescued from obscurity and neglect by physiologists, paediatricians, and more recently, by obstetric specialists in fetal medicine during the past 30 to 40 years, perinatal medicine has become recognised as the most critically important period of early development, with long term implications for health throughout the rest of life.
The editors of this book, with the assistance of David Barker and Chris Power, have brought together review papers from many specialties concerned with the study of fetal and infant origins of adult health. The book contains contributions from the disciplines of epidemiology, public health, nutrition, psychiatry, paediatrics, physical medicine, psychology, comparative ethnology and the social sciences.
The 17 chapters by some 20 well known authors and scientists cover a wide range of subjects, including the influence of early environmental factors on adult growth, nutrition, infectious disease, respiratory disorders, and cardiovascular, neurological, and mental or psychosocial disease. The last four chapters discuss comparative animal studies, critical periods in childhood learning, the implications of changing social factors and the pathways linking early life and adult disease.
The authors are to be congratulated. This book is likely to be the first of many publications focusing on the important of the perinatal period to the rest of life. It should be read by every paediatrician, and indeed by all doctors and other s interested in shaping the health of our society. Perhaps the adage: “The child is the father to the man” should be changed to “the fetus and newborn infant is the father to the man.”