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Prospective Birth Cohort Studies and Developmental Origins of Health and Disease


East Baltimore
Summer Inst. term
Population, Family and Reproductive Health
2 credits
Academic Year:
2022 - 2023
Instruction Method:
Auditors Allowed:
Yes, with instructor consent
Undergrads Allowed:
Grading Restriction:
Course Instructor:
Xiaobin Wang



There is growing recognition of the developmental origins of health and disease (DoHaD). Well-designed, prospective birth cohort studies that collect sensitive, specific biomarkers are essential to advancing the field. This course introduces the fundamentals of prospective birth cohort study design. The concepts and skills learned will help you to interpret data from an existing birth cohort study and identify the key design choices to be made when planning a new study.

Introduces prospective birth cohort studies related to the developmental origins of health and disease. Provides overview of major US and international birth cohort studies. Compares advantages and disadvantages of their different study designs. Reviews specific considerations in conducting such studies, including field data and bio-sample collection and long-term follow-up. Explains importance of collecting sensitive and specific biomarkers. Emphasizes link between study design and interpretation of study data and thus to understanding the developmental origins of health and disease.

Learning Objectives:

Upon successfully completing this course, students will be able to:

  1. Describe major US and international birth cohort studies and explain the advantages and disadvantages of their different designs (e.g., starting preconception, during pregnancy, or at birth)
  2. Discuss important considerations and challenges in the design and conduct of longitudinal birth cohort studies
  3. Explain the scientific and practical rationales for the collection of specific biospecimens and the timing of their collection
  4. Explain the interpretation of results derived from birth cohort studies and the link between study design and the relevance of such findings for clinical and public health practice and policies.
Methods of Assessment:

This course is evaluated as follows:

  • 25% Participation
  • 25% In-class Exercises
  • 50% Final Project

Enrollment Restriction:


Instructor Consent:

No consent required

Special Comments:

The intention is to offer the course in-person; however whether that is possible will depend on the COVID situation. If in-person instruction is not allowed, instruction will be virtual as practiced thus far in AY 2020-21. This course is intended for 2021 summer institute. Start and end date TBD.