Why Being Short Is An Illness - Literally
by Eric Boakye Antwi
July 2007

Why are people "short"?

For a long time I looked to religion for the answer to this question and came up with, "God created short people to create diversity in his creation."

The height bias is apparent here. "Short" is the exception, the act inspired by the need for "diversity"; and "tall" or "average", the norm.

But now an enlightened world knows better. Growth is mediated by a hormone secreted in the anterior pituitary gland, just at the back of your eye. And the more one has it, the taller, stronger, fitter one gets.

The less one has, the less "human" he or she is; end of story. The problem with this is that in the vast majority of us bipeds, the secretion of growth hormone is "regular"; "normal" enough to ensure that the vast majority of, for example, human males, stand 5' 8" and above.

But all species exhibit variation, as Darwin discovered, and in some species, the pituitary gland may simply not produce "enough" growth hormone to give a person "normal" height. Or it may produce "sufficient" amounts, but like all proteins it may encounter too much antibodies in the blood of the host to effect any "significant" growth in height. Or the body may fail to produce Insulin Growth Factor 1 - the mediator between growth hormone production and its utilization - which the body normally produces in response to growth hormone secretion.

And the consequence of each of these naturally - occurring phenomena is that the person in whose body this takes place becomes "short". He suffers no retention of body fluids, no sexual dysfunctions, no cretinism, no autism, and no headaches. So he is not deemed a sick man. Our ancestors did not consider "shortness" an illness because of the apparent lack of death - causing symptoms. But we know better.

Growth hormone is not the only hormone subject to "irregularities". The pancreas may fail to produce enough insulin to keep the blood sugar level normal, so diabetes results. Or when a male cannot produce enough testosterone during puberty, he may encounter problems with his reproductive system; spermatogenesis may delay; and when it does begin the testis may not produce enough sperm; or the sperm may be too diseased to fertilize an egg. A female whose body fails to produce enough estrogen and other female hormones may also encounter late menstruation and other irregularities of the reproductive system. Down's syndrome, Cretinism and Autism are also hormone - induced health problems. Society recognizes these problems as illnesses, and scientists have gone to great lengths to provide affordable treatments for them.

But what about being "short"? It is now known to many scientists why people are short, that shortness can only be as a result of growth hormone "irregularities".

But being short is not treated as a disease. While a diabetic cannot imagine a world without insulin therapy, being "short" is simply and erroneously regarded as an act of "diversity", and no treatments exist to treat it. I sat in class with a dwarf in Senior High School, and words cannot describe the pain he harboured in his heart for the lack of opportunity life offers to Little People like him. Synthetic Human Growth Hormone has been around since the 1970's, yet how many people have heard of such a drug? While I can take $9.99 and get myself synthetic insulin from my local pharmacy, the same dose of Nutropin, Jintropin, Somatropin or Protropin would cost me seventy times more. Growth hormone treatment for a year is in the region of $35,000 per annum. Ask Argentine football star Lionel Messi how much it cost him to "achieve" his 5' 7" frame and he would break down in sobs.

The fight should be for equal treatment. But being short is a genuine illness. Shortness is the price to be paid for having growth hormone irregularities. Just as people with insufficient insulin suffer the results of excess sugar in the blood, people with insufficient growth hormones suffer "shortness", so the health insurance schemes of all countries should cover growth hormone treatment costs of their clients who fall below the height expected of their age and in whom bone epiphysis had not yet occurred. In this way the governments would put pressure on Genentech, Tercica, and the other drug manufacturing companies to make the costs of GH treatment reasonable.

Short people should lobby drug companies to bring the cost of growth hormone therapy to run in tandem with that of insulin therapy. The manufacturing cost of synthetic growth hormone is no greater that that of insulin, yet GH costs seventy times as much .Some short people have argued against GH treatment; and have likened GH treatment as doing a Michael Jackson. I have lived in Africa for twenty years now; and I have never heard anyone complain of being treated in a racist way. Everyone here is black. But there are no homelands for "short" people, where everyone is short so that no one gets teased, discriminated against, bullied, what have you. There is no separate species of humans belonging to a unique habitat, which have shortness as their predominant genetic trait. "Shortness" is universal, spread out over all the races. The pygmies of Central Africa come close, but they are a sub species of the Negroid people.

There should be a shift in policy from mainly advocating equal treatment to seeking the availability and affordability of GH treatment. The conscience of the drug manufacturers should be awakened to this historical injustice, just as human rights groups have succeeded in making HIV antiretroviral drugs cheaper to African HIV sufferers.

If this is successful, height discrimination and bias would not be an issue at all in the centuries to come; since people would only remain "short" because they have chosen to be short.

© by Eric Boakye Antwi. Please reach me @ ericboaky500@yahoo.com