Posted: 30 Sep 2016 10:47 AM PDT
The World Bank's president should be commended for his new drive. Children deserve a chance to grow, physically and mentally
South Korean women are neither especially diminutive nor remarkably lofty. With a mean height of 162.3cm, they are 12.5cm taller than their Filipina peers, and 7.5cm shorter than Latvian women. But they stand out from the crowd for one reason: they are a full 20cm taller than their ancestors a century ago. That collective growth spurt tells us something important: that height differences often ascribed to genetics owe a huge amount to nutrition, hygiene and healthcare. South Korea's rapid development meant women's growth was no longer hindered as it had been. In contrast, under-nourished Filipinas are still associated with "shortness". Even within a community, cultural factors – such as an eldest son preference in South Asia – can lead to marked differences in height outcomes.
This is not a question of mere vanity. What really matters is not how tall one can grow, but whether one fails to grow as expected. More than 160 million of the world's under-fives are stunted. In India 39% of children are stunted and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo 70%. Though stunting is a physical measure, and is associated with the increased risk of some chronic diseases such as diabetes in future, it is also an important indicator that mental development may have been affected. Their brains are unable to make the neural connections that they should; their cognitive ability does not blossom. Malnourished children also have little energy, further diminishing their ability to learn and escape poverty. Research suggests they are less likely to be enrolled in school, and learn less when they are there.Continue reading...
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