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Growth Charts Stump Parents


While physicians routinely use growth charts as a visual aid for parents when discussing growth rates, do parents understand them? Several organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, encourage parents to partner with pediatricians in using the charts to track their children’s growth patterns.

To determine whether parents really understood growth chart data, authors of the study, “Do Parents Understand Growth Charts? National, Internet-Based Survey,” conducted an online survey of 1,000 parents. Researchers at the Nemours Center for Children’s Health Media and asked parents to identify a child’s weight by looking at plotted points on a growth chart. Only 64 percent of respondents could correctly determine the child’s weight. When looking at a combined height/weight measurement chart, up to 77 percent incorrectly interpreted the data. Although parents do want a method to help them understand how their child is growing, few parents understand the growth chart in its current form.

Rather than teaching parents the complicated mathematical concepts of the current growth charts, the study authors suggest clinicians and health educators would do better by inviting parents to help redesign growth charts or develop other techniques for helping parents understand complex health concepts such as growth.


The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit