Reading “Chapter 5: Growth and Development,” from Medical Anthropology: A Biocultural by Andrea S. Wiley and John S. Allen, I was initially nervous what I would write this blog about. NOT because it wasn’t interesting, but because I didn’t know where to dedicate me focus. For about thirty pages, we got the pleasure of reading about human development from Gestation to the end of Childhood. It is quite a wide topic and that chapter contains several interesting insights that I was not aware of. In the end I decided to write about the thing, which I found to be the oddest, and that was the fact that extremes are, in a medical sense, not optimal.
I first notice this during the discussion about birth weights, and then again when the chapter discussed height and weight. It was this second instance that I found so interesting and I hope to explore in this post.
SMALL BUT HEALTHY? ... IS BIGGER BETTER?
These are two of the titles that the chapter uses to introduce this idea about growth and development in reference to body size. The first one talks about how slight figures are an adaptation, which can result from mild malnutrition. It is a reaction to the fact there is not enough nutrients available to help sustain a larger body, and so the body remains health despite being small. However Wiley and Allen make the distinction that just because the body adapts that does not make the adaptation “good” or “optimal.” By looking at a child’s growth, Wiley and Allen Believe that they can better understand the socio-economic conditions from which they come.
The next title discusses child obesity/overweightness and although though children are not lacking supplements, there calorie intake is higher than it should be so instead of converting the remain energy into height it converts it into weight. Thus obesity/overweightness have increased in resent years, leading to various health defects.
I’m sure some people are wondering why I find this to be so interesting. In my mind it is simple. In our health crazed society we tend to use body weight and height to judge people. Sure bigger isn’t always better. Obesity can lead to certain health concerns such as Type II diabetes. However being stick thin is not always the positive indicator that we always think it is. How can we find the balance between them?