Objective: To describe child growth monitoring practices worldwide in preparation for the construction and application of a new international growth reference.
Study design: A questionnaire was sent to Ministries of Health in 202 countries requesting information on growth charts used in national programs, reference populations, classification systems, problems encountered, and actions taken against growth faltering. Countries also provided hard copies of charts in current use. This information was entered and analyzed in Microsoft Access.
Results: Responses were received from 178 (88%) countries, 154 of which included growth charts (n=806). Two thirds of the charts covered preschool age. All countries used weight-for-age, over half relying on this index alone. The reference most commonly used (68%) was the National Center for Health Statistics/World Health Organization population, with regional variations, where most European countries used local standards. Sixty-three percent of charts classified child growth on percentiles, whereas about one fifth used z scores. Problems reported were both conceptual (eg, interpreting growth trajectories) and practical (eg, lack of equipment).
Conclusions: The survey demonstrates that growth charts are used universally in pediatric care. The information gathered on current use and interpretation of growth charts provides important guidance for constructing and applying the new reference.