Build-A-Brain

Studies have shown that taller people are generally more successful in life, e.g., higher income, status, etc. Scandinavians have surpassed Americans as the tallest with an average height of 5’10”. In yet another area, America is falling behind. Our average height is 5’9″.

Richard Steckel, professor of economics and anthropology at Ohio State University, conducted the research. His report is in the Journal of Economic Research Literature. You might be wondering what the connection is between prosperity and height. OSU’s research page on their website explains it:

“Research has shown that average height is significantly associated with a country’s per capita income. But studying height has some advantages,” Steckel said. “For example, researchers have records of average height that go further back in history than do records of national income. Height also tells a slightly different story about the standard of living because it measures consumption of basic necessities, rather than output. Moreover, because growth occurs mostly in childhood, it allows researchers to look at how resources are allocated within families.”

“Average stature is an important indicator of a country’s health care, nutrition and standard of living,” said Steckel, who since 1975 has studied the height of people around the world.

“One of the keys to understanding why America is falling behind other countries in terms of stature has to do with access to health care, particularly for children,” he said.

“I suspect there are pockets of poverty in the United States where the lack of medical programs and nutritional programs may be factors in poor health, and the reason some people aren’t growing as tall as they might.”

An important factor to consider in conjunction with this report is the lack of prenatal care for underserved women in America. I did a little research. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report in October of 2008 which stated:

“The United States’ international ranking fell from 12th in 1960 to 23d in 1990, and to 29th in 2004. The U.S. infant mortality rate is higher than those in most other developed countries, and the gap between the U.S. infant mortality rate and the rates for the countries with the lowest infant mortality appears to be widening.”

The CIA’s World Factbook estimates for 2011 rank the United States #176 out of 222 countries. Most of Europe ranks higher as well as East Asian countries.

The wealthiest nation in the world is neglecting its most vulnerable citizens.

I remember my first pregnancy in 1970. I was lucky to have access to good care and education on the importance of superior nutrition. I didn’t know that dark green lettuce like romaine, had substantially more nutrients than iceberg lettuce. I didn’t know that whole grains contained high concentrations of vitamin B-6 and folic acid – essential components to building a strong nervous system. I didn’t know the importance of eating regular balanced meals. I learned all of this from my obstetrician.

Well, of course, I wanted my son to have the very best of opportunities to develop a healthy body and mind, so I carefully followed my doctor’s advice. At his early well-baby check-ups, the pediatrician always remarked on what a healthy baby boy I had, in fact, one time he said, “This little guy is textbook perfect!” All because I had access to good prenatal care.

The report from OSU also got me to thinking about mental health. If height is affected by poor nutrition, what about your brain? Do you suppose that there is a link between the dumbing down of America and substandard healthcare?

Last fall we elected a majority of public officials who are determined to take down the healthcare provisions that President Obama worked so hard to put in place. One newspaper quoted John Boehner, our new Speaker of the House, as saying he would dismantle the monstrosity of Obama’s healthcare plan. I looked up the word, “monstrosity” in the dictionary:  “something that is outrageously or offensively wrong.”

I think it is offensively wrong for any American to be without healthcare, either because you are denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition, or simply because you do not have the means to pay for the outrageously high premiums.

Build-A-Brain. Build-A-Body. Build-A-Democracy.

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About Kathleen Franks

Kathleen Franks is a writer, artist, storyteller, and community volunteer based in Berkeley, CA
This entry was posted in Healthcare, Infants and Children, Mental Health, Poverty, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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