Developmental origins of health disparities: Evidence from Aotearoa/New Zealand and the US presented by Zaneta Thayer
Anthropologists are interested in explaining patterns of human variation. The focus on this talk is on understanding how differences in environmental experiences over the course of growth and development can contribute to variation in human health. Using data from an ethnically diverse sample in New Zealand, and a sample of Native Americans from the Northern Plains, this talk highlights how early life exposure to stressors such as poverty and discrimination can influence health through biological pathways that originally evolved to be sensitive to qualitatively different types of stressors. The results of this analysis suggest that an understanding of not only how but also why our bodies are sensitive to stress could influence our interpretation of the best ways to eliminate health disparities.
Bio: Dr. Zaneta Thayer is a biological anthropologist interested in understanding how developmental exposures influence human biological variation. A graduate of Dartmouth College in 2008, she went on to get her PhD in biological anthropology at Northwestern University. While at Northwestern she developed a dissertation field project in Auckland, New Zealand, where she had participated in the Dartmouth College study abroad program in 2011. Her Auckland project focused on assessing the impacts of maternal stress on offspring development during pregnancy among a socioeconomically and ethnically diverse sample of women and their children. More recently, Dr. Thayer has been interested in working domestically with indigenous communities in order to understand the pathways through which social experience influences disparities in health among these communities. The overall goal of her research agenda is to contribute work of interest to evolutionary anthropologists as well as research that raises awareness of, and helps address, issues of inequality among socially disadvantaged communities.