War and child growth: Iraq & WWII Germany

At the population level, childhood growth is often seen as a marker of health and the quality of the environment. When populations get taller in a few generations, this is likely due to some improvement in local conditions (better nutrition, less infection, cleaner water supply, etc.). Conversely, when linear growth declines, it is usually because local conditions (ecological, economic, political) have deteriorated. Two recent working papers illustrate how this pattern applies to war conditions.

Destruction of Dresden, 1945

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Conference April 23-25

I’ll be in Seattle April 22-25 at a conference on War and Global Health at the University of Washington.

My session is Saturday, April 24 at 11AM (War and Children). I’m really looking forward to it.

Inequality, Evolution & Obesity

A recent study on child obesity by researchers at Harvard has received a good deal of media attention lately. In the NY Times, a synopsis of the study was one of the most emailed articles in the country (“Baby Fat May Not Be So Cute After All,” March 22). The key sentence from that article:

“More and more evidence points to pivotal events very early in life — during the toddler years, infancy and even before birth, in the womb — that can set young children on an obesity trajectory that is hard to alter by the time they’re in kindergarten.”


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Lingering Effects of the War in Laos

Destroyed temple in Moang Khoune (Xieng Khouangville)

The Lao National Regulatory Authority (LNRA) recently released an impressive, 106-page report on the victims of unexploded ordnance (UXO) over the last few decades. The authors, Mike Boddington and Bountao Chanthavongsa, and all of the associated researchers should be commended for this invaluable contribution, which documents in a systematic fashion the damage done by the war. Researchers covered more than 9,000 villages in Laos (95%), collecting retrospective data from interviews with residents about injuries or deaths caused by mines, large bombs, mortars, bombies, etc. from 1964 to 2008. In all, the report found that more than 50,000 people were injured or killed by UXO in Laos, though the authors acknowledge that this is likely an underestimate, perhaps by as much as 20%. Results revealed that Savannakhet and Xieng Khouang provinces were the two most affected in terms of the number of casualties, which makes sense, given their strategic and geographic importance in the southern and northern parts of the country, respectively.

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