Objectives: To develop a method of community based growth assessment.
Setting: Oxford District, United Kingdom.
Methods: A system of growth surveillance involving a community consultant paediatrician, a paediatric endocrinologist, a clinical auxologist, a project coordinator, and the many primary health care teams was started. Letters and meetings were arranged to introduce the programme to general practitioners and health visitors, emphasising the importance of growth assessment in normal child development. They were asked to measure all children as part of their routine developmental checks at 3 and 4.5 years of age. Community growth assessment clinics staffed by an experienced auxologist were established. Children whose heights were more than two standard deviation (SD) scores below the mean or whose height SD score decreased between the two ages were referred to the clinic. Any child whose height was more than 3 SD scores below the mean was referred directly to the paediatric endocrinologist. Those seen in the community clinics were followed up for a year and if their velocity was > 25th centile, karyotype normal, and bone age appropriately delayed, they were discharged to the general practitioner for further follow up. Any child with an annual velocity < 25th centile was referred to the endocrinologist.
Results: Of 20,338 children monitored, 260 (1.3%) had heights > -2 SD scores. Seventy six were lost to follow up, 35 were measuring errors, 69 were already seeing a paediatrician, leaving 80 children to be evaluated. Of these, 69 were "short normals" and 11 were newly identified diagnoses.
Conclusions: This system of secondary referral keeps normal healthy children out of hospital, avoids unnecessary over-investigation, reduces travel and anxiety for families, avoids filling specialist clinics with normal children, and provides an inexpensive system of growth surveillance.