The challenge and opportunity

Naming the problem

We are in the middle of a quiet crisis. One in 10 Americans has diabetes. One in three Americans has prediabetes—and 90% don’t even know. No other disease is as prevalent in our country or poses as severe an impact on quality of life for our communities. This is why we are dedicated to be at the forefront for changing how communities think about and, ultimately, reduce their risks of adiposity and diabetes.  ​​


Addressing the issue, from start to end of life

To solve a problem as large and complex as diabetes, we knew we needed to think comprehensively about solutions. We’ve designed our approach to address the entire spectrum of the problem. Research at the LEAD Center integrates three critical approaches—the lifecourse, epidemiology, and team science.

Why the lifecourse


As we grow and develop, from the womb to old age, multiple exposures happen to us—and these exposures—nutritional, environmental, physical, infectious, and many others—cause us to respond in ways that are just beginning to be understood. It is crucial to integrate these multiple exposures, as well as the specific periods when they occur (called “critical periods”) to understand how to reduce or prevent their undesirable long-term outcomes such as adiposity (obesity), diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, among many diseases. This integration over time and critical periods is the “lifecourse” approach to health and disease. 

Not only is a lifecourse approach important during childhood and adulthood, but it appears to be especially important during pregnancy for the baby’s development, when multiple control systems in the offspring may be ‘programmed’ about how to respond to exposures both during the prenatal period as well as later in life.

Our projects by life stage

Healthy Start

The Healthy Start Study is using on-going data collection from pregnant mothers and their babies—who are now 4-6 year old children. The study uses the data to examine the metabolic and behavioral factors during pregnancy and early life that contribute to the development of obesity and related health problems. 

Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO)

This is a national collaborative project to harmonize 84 separate cohort studies of mothers and children in the United States (including Healthy Start) to increase greatly the ability to detect environmental influences on childhood health outcomes.

Frequently asked questions