Biological determinants, anthropometrics and soft health indicators
Anthropometric and physiological measurements provide soft health indicators, that is, non-intrusive ones, which are easily collected and reproduced, and cost little. The most commonly used indicators are size, shape, body composition and functional capacity. Change in their expression over the life cycle and temporary changes (known as “secular change”) allow a reconstruction of environmental health and planning of health policies to foresee or correct certain situations. Their expression is clearly linked to cultural factors, class and gender which modulate differential access to nutrition, healthcare and protection against disease and child labour.
There is a lot of excellent information about tendencies for these indicators in the growth stages. In 2016, the proportion of under 5s with retarded growth (small size for their age) varies from 59.3% in Afghanistan to 1.3% in Germany, and in India is 38.7%. For ages between 5 and 9, India has the greatest rates of low weight by age group, (27%), and is one of the few countries in the world malnutrition rates are higher for girls (29.8%) than boys (24.5).
Among women, indicators are broadened with specific information about reproductive function (ages of beginning and end, characteristics of ovary cycles, etc.). Less abundant yet equally important is information about temporary trends in indicators of ageing, particularly those which measure functional capacity, such as manual strength (Dynamometrics) or vital capacity (Spirometrics).