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The Shuar Health and Life History Project: Examining the Effects of Market Integration on Health and Life History Trade-offs in an Indigenous Amazonian Population

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November 10, 2011
Lawrence S Sugiyama

University of Oregon, Department of Anthropology and Institute of Cognitive and Decision Sciences

The Shuar Health and Life History Project is an interdisciplinary collaborative research effort that involves faculty and graduate students from several universities, Ecuadorian health providers, and Shuar colleagues. The project focuses on Shuar and non-indigenous Ecuadorians (Colonos) from the Morona-Santiago region of Ecuador. Traditionally forager-horticulturalists, Shuar currently experience a wide range of market integration (economic development) across their territory. This provides an important opportunity for addressing how economic, social, and dietary changes associated with market integration affect life history tradeoffs, and how those tradeoffs affect health. Here I provide an overview of the project goals and our theoretical and methodological approach. Of special interest is why this context provides an interesting venue for looking at life history trade-offs. Then I present some of the our key results to date, including findings about growth and immune function trade-offs, trade-offs between different branches of immunity, bone density and reproductive profiles, cardio-vascular/lipid profiles and hemoglobin levels.