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Isr J Health Policy Res. 2014 Mar 25;3(1):11. doi: 10.1186/2045-4015-3-11.

"The mothers have eaten unripe grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge": the potential inter-generational effects of the Holocaust on chronic morbidity in Holocaust survivors' offspring.

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1
School of Public Health, Faculty of Social Welfare and Health Sciences, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel. lital.keinan2@moh.health.gov.il.

Abstract

Modern epidemiology has evolved in the last decades from the simplified "cause-effect" paradigm to a multi-factorial framework of causality. The concept of "Fetal Origin of Adult Diseases" (FOAD) is a good example: it suggests that preconception circumstances and fetal exposures as well as infancy and early childhood experiences may eventually change an individual's susceptibility to adult morbidity through fetal programming and epigenetic changes. The FOAD concept was supported, between others, by well-designed cohort studies carried out on non-Jewish World War II (WWII) survivors, exposed to hunger during the War years. However, data on late physical morbidity of Jewish WWII survivors are still scarce.The current paper presents some cohorts addressing the FOAD hypothesis in relation to the long-term impact of early exposures to hunger and their main results. It stresses the need for the establishing of a similar cohort in Israel, in order to study the long-term effects of the Holocaust on the health of Holocaust child survivors and on that of the "second" and "third" generations. A framework for such a cohort in Israel is also proposed.Establishing a cohort of this character in Israel should be a national priority and policy. First, taking special care of Holocaust survivors is a somewhat neglected national obligation. Second, if the population of Holocaust survivors and their offspring is indeed a high risk group for late chronic morbidity, higher awareness may lead to better primary prevention and to tailored secondary prevention programs. Third, the population at stack is unique and its contribution to the consolidation of the FOAD theory and its translational applications may be of foremost importance, in the global and national sense.

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