The bones of prehistoric beasts aren't just cool to uncover -- they can be vital tools in today's fight against malnutrition, too.
In a Feb. 24 blog post, Bill Gates described how scientists can apply their knowledge on the growth of dinosaurs to fight malnutrition in children.
Gates specified research being done by Nathan Myhrvold, who -- using statistical methods he'd gathered from his research on dinosaurs -- was able to accurately map the relationship between a country's gross domestic product (GDP) and childhood growth stunting.
"Dinosaur growth, as crazy as it sounds, does give you important insights which, both at the policy level and hopefully, eventually, at the individual level, are going to help us do a better job of treating malnourished kids," Myhrvold said in the video by the Gates Foundation above.
Malnutrition is a dire issue in the developing world. According to the World Health Organization, the globe is off track to meet global nutrition targets that had been laid out by the World Health Assembly. The organization had aimed for the number of stunted children age 5 and under to be 100 million by 2025, but if current trends continue, that figure will be at about 128 million.
When children fail to obtain proper nutrition, they face a host of health risks. According to UNICEF, kids can suffer from more frequent and severe common infections when they are malnourished. What's more, almost half of all deaths in children under the age of 5 result from undernutrition, the organization points out, which means about 3 million child deaths a year are due to insufficient nutrition.
Gates points out that although there are obvious differences in studying dinosaur growth and human growth, problematic data is a key challenge to overcome in both fields of study -- but for different reasons.
Studying dinosaur growth is difficult because there may only be a small handful of fossils on hand for any given type of dinosaur, limiting a scientist's ability to be certain of any particular growth correlation, species-wide. Studying childhood growth in poor countries, on the other hand, presents other challenging questions, as Gates wrote -- "Is this girl short because she’s malnourished? Is she from a short family? Or has she just not hit her growth spurt yet?"
In his post, Gates -- who professed his childhood love of dinosaurs -- highlighted children's fascination with the extinct animals as a reason to fight for kids in the developing world.
"Ever since dinosaurs were discovered, kids have showered them with love," he wrote. "Thanks to this work, we may have found a way for dinosaurs to pay them back."
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