Where do kids grow up in the best health?

Several parts of the world are losing sight of the benefits of urban life for children and adolescents’ healthy growth and development. This is supported by a survey from Imperial College London (United Kingdom) that examined trends in height and body mass index (BMI) for 71 million children and adolescents. The report was published in “Nature” (5 to 19 years of age). (from 1990 to 2020) across urban and rural areas of 200 nations, with participation from 1,500 researchers and healthcare professionals.

Cities provided a wide range of chances for young people to be trained during the 20th century, including better food, education, entertainment, and medical care. All of this resulted in school-age children and adolescents in urban areas growing taller than those in rural areas throughout the 20th century in nearly all wealthy nations.

However, the study that was recently published in “Nature” shows that this pattern has changed, at least in Western nations.

Healthy eating habits and the living conditions at home, in the community, and at school have an impact on children’s and adolescents’ ability to grow and develop to their full potential throughout these formative years.

Nevertheless, there is little information available for this age range comparing growth and development results in urban and rural populations. Since living in the city is sometimes assumed to be a disadvantage, many policies and initiatives that seek to encourage healthy growth and development at the school-age have a limited focus.


The study calculated the children’s BMI, a measurement of their weight in relation to their height. Researchers discovered that in 1990, children who lived in cities had somewhat higher BMIs than those who lived in rural areas.

With the exception of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where BMI climbed more quickly in rural regions, the mean BMI increased in the majority of nations by 2020, though more quickly for children living in cities.

The analysis has found that while height and BMI have increased globally since 1990, the degree of change between urban and rural areas has varied greatly across various low- and middle-income countries, whereas minor disparities between urban and rural areas have stayed stable in high-income countries.

For long-term health and wellbeing, it’s imperative that children and adolescents experience optimal growth and development.

The study also discovered that, in contrast to the widely held belief that residing in urban areas is the primary cause of the obesity epidemic, many high-income Western countries have had very little change in height and BMI over time, with only a slight difference between urban and rural BMI in 2020. (about 1.5 kg of weight for a 130 cm child).

According to Majid Ezzati, the paper’s lead author, “the issue is not so much whether children live in cities or urban regions as it is where the poor reside and if governments are addressing growing inequities with measures like supplemental income and free school lunch programs.” Professor at Imperial College London’s School of Public Health and researcher.

According to the experts, the trend in sub-Saharan Africa is also grounds for concern. For the past three decades, children in rural areas have seen their heights stagnate or even decrease, in part because of the nutritional and health difficulties that followed the structural adjustment strategy in the 1980s.

Bad health over the course of life is associated with slow growth in school-age children and adolescents.

Ezzati Majid

Professor at the Faculty of Public Health at Imperial College London

Children in sub-Saharan Africa also put on weight faster in rural regions than in urban ones, which meant that in certain nations, they went from being underweight to accumulating too much weight for healthy growth.

“From the individual to the regional levels, this is a severe issue. According to Ezzati, poor growth in school-age children and teenagers is linked to ill health over the course of a person’s lifetime.

By Editor

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