Life Course Epidemiology

Pam Factor Litvak

Life course epidemiology is the study of exposures, both physical and social, that occur during the periconceptional period, during gestation or during early childhood and adult health and disease risk.  What distinguishes the life course approach is the attention to the biological, behavioral and psychosocial processes that link early exposures to later outcomes.  The life course has recently been expanded to include associations with health and disease risk in subsequent generations. Understanding the approaches to the life course, the development and evaluation of epidemiologic research designs related to the life course, and the contextual models and their relevance for the design and evaluation of research studies is necessary for epidemiologists who aspire to study health outcomes over the life course.  These papers describe the basic approach to life course work, provide examples which highlight the methodological challenges of life course work, and end with a discussion of approaches to causal inferences from the study of birth cohorts.

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