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USyd researchers seek to define ‘normality’

Stephanie White wants to know if she’s normal.

Image credit: Garry Wilmore, via Flickr. Image credit: Garry Wilmore, via Flickr.

Scientists around the world will soon have access to a database that catalogues what is ‘normal’ across the human population, thanks to the efforts of researchers from the University of Sydney.

The ground-breaking 1000 Norms Project is working on cataloguing both normality and variation among healthy Australians from the ages of three to 100. This data will be used to help clinicians better diagnose disease by comparing patients’ condition to that of the general healthy population.

Researchers hope that the project will improve the scientific community’s understanding of the range of normal variation between healthy individuals. Jennifer Baldwin, one of two primary researchers for the project explained that the database “will transform our understanding of the boundaries of health and disease and influence how we define healthy aging.”

The initiative will catalogue statistics such as body measurements, balance, strength, power, coordination and movement.

The 1000 Norms Project database will be shared internationally by the University of Sydney via a free, secure online portal for clinicians and researchers.

While she recognises that ‘normal’ is a loaded term, Marnee McKay, the second primary researcher for the project stated that “it is important for clinicians to be able to measure norms so they can assess health and function.”

Summarising the purpose of the initiative, McKay stated that “knowledge of healthy human variation is essential for clinicians to make a diagnosis and evaluate the effect of treatment.”

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