Aim: To describe the WHO Multicentre Growth Reference Study (MGRS) sample with regard to screening, recruitment, compliance, sample retention and baseline characteristics.
Methods: A multi-country community-based study combining a longitudinal follow-up from birth to 24 mo with a cross-sectional survey of children aged 18 to 71 mo. Study subpopulations had to have socio-economic conditions favourable to growth, low mobility and > or = 20% of mothers practising breastfeeding. Individual inclusion criteria were no known environmental constraints on growth, adherence to MGRS feeding recommendations, no maternal smoking, single term birth and no significant morbidity. For the longitudinal sample, mothers and newborns were screened and enrolled at birth and visited 21 times at home until age 24 mo.
Results: About 83% of 13 741 subjects screened for the longitudinal component were ineligible and 5% refused to participate. Low socioeconomic status was the predominant reason for ineligibility in Brazil, Ghana, India and Oman, while parental refusal was the main reason for non-participation in Norway and USA. Overall, 88.5% of enrolled subjects completed the 24-mo follow-up, and 51% (888) complied with the MGRS feeding and no-smoking criteria. For the cross-sectional component, 69% of 21 510 subjects screened were excluded for similar reasons as for the longitudinal component. Although low birthweight was not an exclusion criterion, its prevalence was low (2.1% and 3.2% in the longitudinal and cross-sectional samples, respectively). Parental education was high, between 14 and 15 y of education on average.
Conclusion: The MGRS criteria were effective in selecting healthy children with comparable affluent backgrounds across sites and similar characteristics between longitudinal and cross-sectional samples within sites.