New Pediatric Growth Charts Provide Tool To Ward Off Future Weight Problems

For Release: Tuesday, May 30, 2000

Contact: NCHS Press Office (301) 458-4800


CDC Growth Charts: United States. Advance Data 314. 28 pp. (PHS) 2000-1250. [PDF – 407 KB]

HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala today announced the release of new CDC pediatric growth charts that are not only updated and more representative of the U.S. population, but which will now include a new assessment for body mass index (BMI). This key tool will help identify weight problems early on in children. These growth charts will be used by pediatricians, nurses, and nutritionists to monitor children’s growth.

Secretary Shalala and Surgeon General David Satcher also announced that the Surgeon General will convene a workshop this fall to develop a national action plan to address weight problems and obesity.

Most parents are familiar with the original growth charts used by pediatric health care providers since 1977 and adopted by the World Health Organization for international use since 1978. In fact, they are the most widely used tools to track growth and development in children and assist in signaling potential developmental problems. The charts consist of a series of curves called “percentiles” that illustrate the distribution in growth of children across the United States. The new BMI measure increases the usefulness of this tool significantly.

“One of the first questions people ask new parents is `how much did your baby weigh?’ From that moment on, growth charts are a reference point for parents as their children grow into adolescence and adulthood,” said Secretary Shalala at the National Nutrition Summit in Washington, DC. “The new charts not only provide a more accurate gauge for pediatric health care providers, but the BMI information offers them a new tool that can identify kids who have the potential to become overweight down the road. The BMI is an early warning signal that is helpful as early as age 2. This means that parents have an opportunity to change their children’s eating habits before a weight problem ever develops.”

The BMI is a single number that evaluates an individual’s weight status in relation to height. BMI is generally used as the first indicator in assessing body fat and has been the most common method of tracking weight problems and obesity among adults. Health care providers now know that as early as age 2, children can demonstrate their propensity for future weight problems if they have a high ratio of body fat and a family history of weight problems.

“Parents should partner with pediatricians to track their child’s growth,” Shalala said. Individual health care providers are in the best position to effectively evaluate growth and any possible development problems, especially because of information provided with the new CDC charts.”

The revised pediatric growth charts more accurately reflect the Nation’s cultural and racial diversity and track children and young people through age 20. Additionally, there is considerable improvement in the infant growth charts where new data and improved statistical procedures have been useful in the revision process.

CDC’s new charts are based on data gathered through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), the only survey that collects data from actual physical examinations on a cross-section of Americans from all over the country. This survey showed that in the past two decades the number of overweight children and adolescents has doubled. Additionally, it showed that over one-half of all American adults are overweight and that the number of obese adults has doubled. Health care providers hope that the new BMI charts will help address this nationwide problem. The growth charts indicate that, in general, children are heavier today than in 1977, but height has remained virtually unchanged.

“Obesity is a condition that is difficult to treat clinically in children, so prevention is key,” said CDC Director Jeffrey P. Koplan. MD, MPH. “These new CDC charts are an important new tool to identify growth problems at an early age so we can better prevent excess weight gain.”

The new charts are published in a report, “CDC Growth Charts: United States.” The report and the corresponding data will be available on the CDC Web site. A more comprehensive report will follow in the fall.

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