Conference report: Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD) 2019

Investing in a healthy future for all: research, education, policy

By Associate Professor Jeffrey Craig

This international conference was held in Melbourne from October 20th-23rd and attracted around a thousand delegates. James Armitage and I represented Deakin on the Local Organising Committee. DOHaD is a society coming of age, and we wanted to include sessions and workshops on knowledge translation in addition to talks on laboratory and public health research.

I participated in the pre-conference workshop ‘Bringing scientists and stakeholders together: knowledge translation strategies, and skills to build engagement’. Jacquie Bay (NZ), Mary Barker (UK) and others, including Karen Campbell from Deakin, shared their experience of stakeholder engagement, including co-design of educational resources. Jacquie Bay also gave a plenary lecture on her work with indigenous adolescents entitled ‘intervening through Education: The Pacific Islands Experience’

Public engagement also featured in two concurrent symposia. The first, entitled ‘DOHaD and society’, featured Deakin sociologist Maurizio Meloni who spoke about ‘The politics of a permeable womb: misconceptions and other histories from the past’. The second, entitled ‘Taking DOHaD to the people’ featured an interesting talk by Gemma Sharp from the University of Bristol entitled ‘you are (not really) what your mother ate: conducting DOHaD research while avoiding maternal blame’.

We also held public engagement event: ‘Adolescents: investing in the next generation’. The DOHaD field has traditionally focused on the ‘first 1000 days’ from conception, but there is evidence that our health, experiences and behaviours during adolescence can have major impact on our future health and risk of both physical and mental diseases. Our panel was chaired by ABC TV journalist Ian Henderson and comprised two youth advocates – Deakin student Olivia Beasley, representing students with a disability, and PhD student Mary Mansila from Monash University, representing the LGTQBI community. They were joined by Professors Pat McGorry and George Patton (mental health), Jacquie Bay and Kym Rae (Indigenous health) and by Dr Sandro Demaio (diet and exercise). The panel answered questions from the audience, who represented a wide age range. Over sixty questions were submitted on our themes of mental health, diet and exercise and mental health. The event lasted an hour, attracted over 300 people, and feedback has been very positive. We recorded the event ( and we are aiming to write up and further publicise the issues discussed.

We established a social media team to share highlights from the conference. The t included ECRs dedicated to Facebook ( ) and Twitter (@DOHaD2019 #DOHaD2019) platforms, and Science Communication students who established Instagram (dohadworldcongress2019) and YouTube ( ) sites.