Well-designed birth cohorts are able to estimate prevalence/distribution of various health events/outcomes, and to link early-life origins with adult health and function. The past two decades have seen a surge in the establishment of new birth cohorts and their accompanying research. We discussed distinct designs of current birth cohort studies, reviewed their achievements, and highlighted insights obtained from birth cohort studies, as well as challenges we are facing. Birth cohort studies are providing increasing opportunities to identify determining factors for short- and long-term health, yielding substantial evidence to uncover biological mechanisms of diseases and phenotypes, and providing further insights for public health. Dynamic monitoring, accurate measurements, long-term follow-ups, and collaborative efforts are warranted in new birth cohorts to elucidate the nature of life course relationships in contemporary generation.
This review provided a summary on progress of birth cohort studies, and highlighted future challenges and perspectives.