The WHO growth standards: strengths and limitations

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2012 May;15(3):298-302. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e3283511478.


Purpose of review: To describe the creation of the World Health Organization Child Growth Standards (WHO standards) released in 2006, to show their main features and to compare them with existing charts.

Recent findings: The WHO standards are the first globally representative growth standards. They describe the growth of children worldwide who are living in favorable circumstances. The WHO standards are well suited for intercountry comparisons.

Summary: Comparison with other charts reveals important differences with implications for child health monitoring. Recent studies comparing the use of the WHO standards to use country-specific growth references suggest that the latter may describe the growth of children more faithfully than the WHO standards. Use of the WHO standards in public health surveys must await the development of specific cutoffs.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Height
  • Body Weight
  • Breast Feeding / statistics & numerical data
  • Child
  • Child Development
  • Child, Preschool
  • Growth Charts*
  • Humans
  • Public Health / standards
  • Reference Values
  • World Health Organization*