Say It Like Beckham

Aug 03, 2012

This post originally appeared August 2 on Huffington Post.

By Jodie Levin-Epstein

With worldwide attention on the Olympics, soccer star David Beckham hopes that the Games will help him score interest in an international problem: child stunting. In his capacity as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Beckham -- whose "ball bending" skills were popularized in the film Bend it Like Beckham -- called for an end to this "silent" poverty crisis so that children could be the real "winners of the Games."

What is stunting? It's when a child's height is low for his or her age. When a child's growth is stunted that's an indicator of chronic deprivation such as malnutrition which negatively impacts development. Child stunting can also signal impaired brain function.

While stunting is something few lay people know about, UNICEF hopes to make it a global priority. When Americans learn about stunting, they may naturally assume the phenomenon is limited to developing nations, that it doesn't come homegrown. Here, you don't find kwashiorkor (the protein deficiency that contributes to the distended bellies of its victims). The U.S. has made impressive progress in fighting hunger over the decades.

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