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David Barker M.D., Ph.D., FRS Share This OHSU Content

Dr. Barker

David Barker, M.D., Ph.D., FRS, was the director of international collaborations at the OHSU Bob and Charlee Moore Institute for Nutrition and Wellness, Professor in Cardiovascular Medicine at OHSU and Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Southampton, UK until his death in 2013.

Over twenty-five years ago, he was the first to show that people who had low birth weight are at greater risk of developing coronary heart disease and diabetes - now a widely accepted fact. This finding led to a new understanding that chronic adult diseases are "programmed" in the womb by malnutrition and other harmful influences.

"David Barker's work sparked a revolution of thought that is building momentum to this day," said Kent Thornburg, Ph.D., director of the OHSU Bob and Charlee Moore Institute for Nutrition & Wellness. "His finding that growth patterns before birth predict a person's vulnerability for chronic disease has prompted the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development to put the topic at the top of their list for promising areas of research that will change our understanding of human disease."

Dr. Barker's work is relevant around the world. He collaborated on various research projects in more than 10 countries around the world to explore how mother's diets and children's growth can protect against disease in later life. His international leadership, recognition and access to international research uniqely positioned the Moore Institute for Nutrition & Wellness to make significant contributions to the way we think about food and health. In a recent paper in the journal "Public Health," Dr. Barker stated that "coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases are unnecessary. Their occurrence is not mandated by genes passed down to us through thousands of years of evolution. Chronic diseases are not the inevitable lot of humankind. They are the result of the changing pattern of human development. We could readily prevent them, had we the will to do so."

Dr. Barker lectured and wrote extensively on nutrition in the womb and its life-long consequences. He received a number of international awards including the Danone International Prize for Nutrition, the Prince Mahidol Prize and the Richard Doll Prize in Epidemiology.

In the wake of Dr. Barker's work, the Moore Institute is affirming that prevention of chronic disease requires improvement in the nutrition of girls and young women. Protecting the nutrition and health of girls and young women should be the cornerstone of public health efforts to prevent chronic disease and produce healthy future generations.