American Health Falling “Short”

In today’s New York Times, columnist and economist Paul Krugman details new data that shows that Americans are literally losing stature. Here’s a quote from the article.

The data show that Americans, who in the words of a recent paper by the economic historian John Komlos and Benjamin Lauderdale in Social Science Quarterly, were “tallest in the world between colonial times and the middle of the 20th century,” have now “become shorter (and fatter) than Western and Northern Europeans. In fact, the U.S. population is currently at the bottom end of the height distribution in advanced industrial countries.”

This is not a trivial matter. As the paper says, “height is indicative of how well the human organism thrives in its socioeconomic environment.”

The link to the article is here, but you have to be a subscriber to read it.

How might this relate to those of us in the United State’s learning-and-performance field? Well, mostly this is an interesting tidbit that we have little control over. On the other hand, it might give us pause. After all, if we create learning programs of equal effectiveness to our overseas competitors, but their learners are healthier than our learners, their learners will learn more and perform better in their work. Their companies will have a competitive advantage. We will all die penniless and alone. (Exaggeration).

Krugman reflects on the argument that American’s unhealthy ways might be related the fact that we work too much, and thus don’t have time to exercise and eat right. Is that a hook into our responsibility as learning professionals? Is there anything that we can do to lower the average time our workers are swimming in the ocean of work responsibilities?

Don’t just think content here. Preaching and information are not likely to help that much.

Well, I’m brainstorming here (as I have no idea), we can encourage e-learning to be done on work time, maybe by utilizing more synchronous, and more social interactions. We can realize that learners will forget a large chunk of what we teach, and either cut the forgettable crap out of our courses or demand from our organization and vendors that it be put into performance support. Maybe we can design m-learning interactions that are especially appropriate to be used during exercise. I don’t know how to do this, and it may not be doable, but maybe you can be the one to figure it out. Maybe we can provide truly healthy and delicious food for our training participants.

What else? I don’t know. Do you?

Or do you think it’s outside our influence?