Objectives: To determine why, in the London Borough of Hackney before 1990, fewer children than expected were identified with remedial causes of short stature. To construct a practical model for height surveillance of 5 and 11 year old school entrants to improve the quality of child growth surveillance.
Setting: City and Hackney Borough, London, United Kingdom.
Methods: School nurses were trained by a clinical auxologist to measure children's height at school entry accurately and reproducibly. New procedures for measurement technique, plotting of data, referral, and audit were established. A reference manual was provided and a continuing training programme was started.
Results: During the first year the percentage of the target group measured was low. Changes in work practice led to improvements from 77% measured in the first year to 91% in the second year and 87% in the third year for 5 year olds. Improvements for 11 year olds were from 36% to 86% to 87% over the three years. Only 1.2% of 5 year olds and 2.6% of 11 year olds measured had height less than the third centile (compared with Tanner's height standards).
Conclusions: School nurses measured height reliably. New audit procedures led to rapid changes in working practice and improvements in the percentage of children measured. The low numbers of short children previously identified with unrecognised abnormality may indicate an upward trend in height in this inner city population.