Based upon our recent insights into the determinants of preterm birth, which is the leading cause of death in children under five years of age worldwide, we describe potential analytic frameworks that provides both a common understanding and, ultimately the basis for effective, ameliorative action. Our research on preterm birth serves as an example that the framing of any human health condition is a result of complex interactions between the genome and the exposome. New discoveries of the basic biology of pregnancy, such as the complex immunological and signaling processes that dictate the health and length of gestation, have revealed a complexity in the interactions (current and ancestral) between genetic and environmental forces. Understanding of these relationships may help reduce disparities in preterm birth and guide productive research endeavors and ultimately, effective clinical and public health interventions.
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