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Children's Growth Charts Don't Measure Up With Parents
Date:9/28/2009

Many don't understand how to read or interpret them, survey shows

MONDAY, Sept. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Parents want to know how their children measure up on the growth charts widely used in pediatrician's offices, but many parents don't understand how to read or interpret the information, a new survey shows.

About 85 percent of parents could look at a growth chart with one point plotted and correctly identify that the point corresponded to the child's age, according to an online survey of a nationally representative group of 1,000 moms and dads. About two-thirds of parents were able to identify both a child's weight and percentile on a chart with one plotted point.

But only 56 percent could correctly identify the meaning of "percentile" from a list of choices. In the context of a growth chart, a percentile measures how a child stacks up to his or her peers. A child who is in the 80th percentile for height, for example, is taller than 80 percent of other children his or her age, while a child in the 25th percentile, is shorter than 75 percent of his or her peers.

Only one-third of parents could identify a child's age, weight and percentile on a chart, as well as the correct definition of percentile, according to the study in the October issue of Pediatrics.

Growth charts were developed in the 1960s to help physicians monitor a child's development, said study author Dr. Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, consulting medical editor at Nemours Center for Children's Health Media. The latest versions, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, were updated in 2001.

While the charts were meant for use by health-care providers, in practice, physicians often use the charts as visual aids for parents. About 31 percent of parents said they marked their child's growth on a chart at home.

"Growth charts can be helpful if used properly and if the parents understand them and they are expla
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