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Comparing Methodologies Used to Develop WHO and CDC Growth Charts for Children Birth to Aged 2 Years

WHO Growth Standards

The WHO growth charts represent growth standards that describe how healthy infants and young children should grow under optimal environmental and health conditions.
The WHO growth charts  Image of a grandma, mom and baby

  • Are prescriptive because they describe growth under optimal environmental conditions and included healthy infants who were well-fed according to international recommendations.
  • Were designed to be an international standard for infants and young children.
  • Provide a standard against which all infants should be compared.
  • Create an opportunity for clinicians to identify and address environmental conditions that might be negatively affecting growth.

CDC Growth Reference

The CDC growth charts are a growth reference. They describe the growth of children in the United States.

The CDC growth charts

  • Are descriptive because they indicate how children grew in a particular place and time.
  • Indicate how children grew in the United States during approximately 30 years (1963 -1994).
  • Do not imply that the pattern of growth they represent is healthy.

Both the WHO growth standard and the 2000 CDC growth reference were developed to replace the 1977 National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS)/WHO growth reference.

More Information

For detailed descriptions of methods and information about the development of the 2000 CDC growth charts, see 2000 CDC Growth Charts for the United States: Methods and Development [PDF-5.3MB] and the CDC Growth Charts.