I had a question about stunting i.e. height-for-age. The WHO defines at as any child whose height-for-age is 2 standard deviations below the median height-for-age.

Given this definition, wouldn't there always be stunted children? I must have misunderstood the definition because this seems like one of those challenges that needs to be "fixed" but my current understanding means its sort of unfixable.

Any insight is appreciated.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it seems like its asking more about statistical/mathematical distributions vs biology. $\endgroup$ – theforestecologist Mar 7 '18 at 4:11

You are correct, that under that definition; unless there were no variation (which would be impossible), there would always be individuals that fall below 2 standard deviations. However, "stunted" under this definition would not be a problem if variation was extremely low. So yes, it would be unfixable by definition, but if variation fell, then the "problem" would be fixed, because it would no longer be a problem.

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  • $\begingroup$ I disagree with the last sentence. No matter what the actual distribution, there will always been extreme observations. $\endgroup$ – kmm Mar 4 '18 at 15:31
  • $\begingroup$ Karl Kjer: Many thanks for your answer! I think it encapsulates the trouble I am having with this but I think you may be pointing to an answer. Perhaps what WHO need to do is to add to the definition suggesting an SD cutoff after which this stops being relevant. That is, if the spread is much lower and most of the world's population are more tightly centered around a mean, then stunting stops being relevant as a public health challenge. $\endgroup$ – user40752 Mar 5 '18 at 11:45

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