Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Kraft Dinner research highlighted by CIHR

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that the latest annual report from CIHR features a research paper, written with Lynn McInytre and Krista Rondeau, which used Kraft Dinner to explore food-secure compared with food-insecure perspectives. Here's that excerpt.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Human ancestry: What does dentition have to do with it?

The latest issue of Science provides in-depth analysis and discussion of the fossilized remains of the oldest known human ancestor yet, dubbed Ardipithecus ramidus.

The full suite of scientific papers, plus additional features such as podcasts, is available for free to all those who register.

C. Owen Lovejoy's contribution, "Reexamining Human Origins in Light of Ardipithecus ramidus," puts a great deal of emphasis on the "large, projecting, interlocking, and honing" canines lacking in this ancestor as well as in modern-day humans. (By contrast, such canines are present in all other ape species, and are particularly pronounced in males.) This radical divergence in terms of dentition suggests, according to this expert, that cooperative social structures are fundamental for humankind. Put another way, while human societies still tend toward hierarchy, the size of someone's teeth is not "a big deal."

Perhaps that's why the Canadian government does not guarantee access to dental services as part of healthcare insurance?

Yet dentition aesthetics and overall oral health remain sentinels of social status.

It's just that we tend to prize 'nice teeth' over 'scary' ones...

Friday, 2 October 2009

Complex Systems and Non-Random Thoughts

I'm writing this blog entry while attending a conference on complexity in relation to questions about how to convert research findings into gains in human health -- what is sometimes called knowledge transfer, knowledge translation, or knowledge exchange. The main sponsor is the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research, and the highlight for me has been hearing anthropologist Micheal Agar give the keynote address and 'talking shop' with him later in the day. It was so helpful (and fun) to discuss the work that I have been doing to bridge sociocultural anthropology with public health via animal-human connections.

Karen Thomas, media relations specialist for AHFMR, prompted me to attend -- thanks!

Karen also showed me the 2009-9 Canadian Institutes of Health Research 2008/9 annual report "Research with Impact," which highlights a study that was the focus of a media intervention last August. By comparing food-secure and food insecure perspectives on Kraft Dinner, my co-authors and I emphasized that governments need to redress and monitor food insecurity (see archives of this blog).