Chronic Disease and Public Health

Margo Honeyman and Leonard Harrison

“The rising incidence of allergic and autoimmune diseases imposes an ever-increasing burden on individuals, populations and economies. Possible mechanisms for this phenomenon, related to changed environmental conditions that impact on immune response genes are discussed. In this chapter, we consider the role of reduced and delayed exposure of infants to infections, as well as additional factors that could promote chronic immuno-inflammatory disease. These include changes in the quantity and quality of food consumed, lower energy expenditure due to reduced exercise and thermoneutrality of the built environment, and reduction in sleep. Any or all of these may result in obesity, in which a state of low-grade inflammation contributes to associated complications such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Increased air pollution and psychological stress and, finally, insufficiency of vitamin D, are discussed, as these may also promote inflammation and immune responsiveness …”