UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health


Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health


PPP Internal Seminar:Evolutionary Public Health-From Theory to Cohort Studies and Randomised Trials

06 December 2019, 1:00 pm–2:00 pm


Event Information

Open to





PPP Communications Team


June Lloyd Room
30 Guilford Street

Darwin’s theory of evolution has transformed most areas of biology, but paradoxically medicine lags behind. An evolutionary perspective could particularly benefit public health, with its focus on population-environment interactions. This seminar will describe a conceptual approach linking evolutionary life history theory with (a) the developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD) hypothesis and (b) models of social capital and social/gender inequality. I will show how this theoretical framework is being applied to longitudinal cohort studies to improve understanding of why individuals develop differential health, with particular focus on social inequality. I will then discuss randomised trials that test life history theory, and show how it can underpin novel interventions  to improve early growth and development.

About the Speaker

Jonathan Wells

at PPP

I trained in social and biological anthropology at the University of Cambridge, before doing a PhD in nutrition and biological anthropology at the MRC Dunn Nutrition Unit, Cambridge. I have been at GOSH ICH since 1998, and conduct research on breastfeeding and pediatric growth, body composition and energy metabolism in diverse settings, making particular use of stable isotope methodologies. For the last 15 years, my primary remit has been global health, based on long-term collaborations in many settings, including Brazil, Peru, Ethiopia, Malawi, India, Nepal and Iceland. To complement this empirical research, I have developed an evolutionary theoretical framework to provide novel insights into the ways that environmental factors, particularly social hierarchies, influence our health. I use experimental studies that draw on evolutionary life history theory to support this theoretical perspective.