Health of Aka forager and Ngandu farmer adolescents

This research examines the relationships between indicators of health, (e.g., body mass index (BMI), mid upper arm circumference measurement (MUAC), body fat percentage, skin fold thicknesses, (including heart and respiratory rate, temperature and blood pressures), of Aka forager and Ngandu farmer adolescents and considers the relationship these physical indicators have with demographic variables, kinship networks, and behavioral profiles. This study; 1) examines patterns and variability of health, growth, and nutritional status intra-and inter culturally; 2) and builds upon Draper and Howell’s work with the Ju/’hoansi (2004), where kinship, family composition and social networks are linked to child health. Analyses indicated intracultural variation was pronounced, while intercultural variation was minimal; culture (i.e., forager versus farmer) and the number and type of specific kin were not important. As expected, gender explained some of the intracultural variability, but unexpectedly age was also highly correlated to health measures; older adolescents were substantially healthier than younger adolescents in both ethnic groups. It is hypothesized that the lack of relationship between number and type of biological kin is in part due to the frequency and scope of sharing of the Aka, and the egalitarian distribution of wealth among the Ngandu, which is maintained by sorcery. Both cultures have ‘leveling mechanisms’ where accumulation, (e.g., food, medicine, resources) is discouraged. The results also suggest the potential importance of reciprocal altruism (i.e., social relations with non-biologically related individuals). It is also hypothesized that young adolescents (10-14), those I found to be in the poorest of health, are much like weanlings, in that they are in the process of changing their provisioning and daily resource acquisition, which makes them physically vulnerable. Interestingly, this provisioning change is also occurring during the life history transition from somatic to reproductive effort.

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