TORONTO, ON -- Inuit preschoolers in Nunavut are as tall as their U.S. counterparts but they're also heavier, according to a new study published in the online edition of the International Journal of Circumpolar Health.
This represents a remarkable change from previous work showing Inuit infants began life with equivalent birth lengths, but were falling behind by the time they were six months old.
"This is in many ways a good news story," says Dr. Tracey Galloway, lead author and a Post-doctoral Fellow at the University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health. "Height reflects overall health status over a lifetime and over generations."
Unlike weight, which can fluctuate quickly, it takes decades for changes in health to be reflected in the height of a population. Factors influencing height include nutrition of the child, maternal health and diet, and infectious disease rates.
However, says Galloway, it's impossible to know whether this trend will continue because school-aged children and youth have not been recently surveyed. The study of 26% of three to five year olds in 16 Nunavut communities marks the first time data on the height and weight of preschoolers has been collected for Inuit populations living in the North.
The data are from the International Polar Year Nunavut Inuit Child Health Survey led by McGill University, the University of Toronto and territorial and community partners.
In Greenland, the height of Inuit youth begins to fall behind the general population in their early teens. And decades of work with Canadian adult Inuit populations consistently show they are shorter than adults in the general population.
"No current data exist for Canadian Inuit schoolchildren and youth. We don't have a snapshot. We don't know what the pattern of growth is over time," says Galloway.
Unfortunately, as well as gaining height, Inuit preschoolers are also gaining weight.
|Contact: Ruth Klinkhammer|
Arctic Institute of North America