Public health practitioners and social scientists frequently compare height against one-size-fits-all standards of human growth to assess well-being, deprivation, and disease risk. However, underlying differences in height can make some naturally tall populations appear well-off by universal standards, even though they live in severe states of deprivation. In this article, I describe the worldwide extent of these population differences in height and illustrate how using a universal yardstick to compare population height can create puzzling disparities (eg, between South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa) while also underestimating childhood stunting in specific world regions (eg, West Africa and Haiti). I conclude by discussing potential challenges of developing and implementing population-sensitive standards for assessing healthy development.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics