The Effect of Lifestyle Change on Health and Early Childhood Growth in Daasanach Pastoralists Living in Northern Kenya

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Understanding the relationships between lifestyle, ecology and physiology is essential for understanding variation in health, life history, and subsistence practice among populations. Previous work has investigated human behavioral ecology and life history across a wide range of human populations, but study with populations experiencing changes to their lifeways remains particularly important. Work with populations that traditionally practice nomadic pastoralism as a subsistence strategy and are experiencing encroaching market pressures offers the opportunity to investigate the effects of stark subsistence and market transitions across a variety of lifestyle factors (e.g., nutrition, physical activity, healthcare, socioeconomic status).Using data collected with the Daasanach Health and Life History Project, this dissertation applies a broad approach to test whether changes in lifestyle (e.g., market integration and sedentarization) affect health and patterns of early childhood growth within a human population through the framework of life history theory. Health, physical activity, growth, nutrition, reproduction, and community composition data have been synthesized to test the effects of life history tradeoffs that arise through socioecological variation. As semi-nomadic pastoralists who currently face the encroaching pressure of sedentarization, the Daasanach living in and around the town of Illeret are well suited to test this hypothesis. In addition, this project will expand the existing body of work concerning life history and health variation in non-industrial populations, specifically adding a population with a subsistence pattern that is currently underrepresented. This addition allows for a new level comparison between the variation in ecology, life history, health, and behavior that characterize our species, advancing our understanding of difference between industrialized and non-industrialized populations, and the breadth of variation in the variables across human populations.





Swanson, Zane Shea (2021). The Effect of Lifestyle Change on Health and Early Childhood Growth in Daasanach Pastoralists Living in Northern Kenya. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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