Growth Charts Stump Parents
Many Parents Don't Understand Pediatric Growth Charts
WebMD News Archive
Sept. 28, 2009 -- If you’ve ever been stumped by a growth chart, a new study
shows you’re not alone.
Pediatric growth charts are designed to serve as a visual aid and help
doctors educate parents about their child’s growth. But a new survey shows that
few parents actually understand how to use them.
Although most parents say they are familiar with and understand pediatric
growth charts, researchers found that up to three-fourths of them incorrectly
interpret the information in the charts.
The study showed that only 64% could correctly pinpoint a child’s weight
when shown on a pediatric growth chart, and up to 77% misinterpreted charts
containing height and weight measurements in tandem.
“This survey demonstrates that the current trend of clinicians sharing
growth chart data with patients, although well-intentioned, does not seem to be
effective,” write researcher Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD, of the Alfred I.
DuPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del., and colleagues in
Growth Chart Confusion
Several health organizations, including the World Health Organization and
the CDC, encourage parents and physicians to use growth charts to track their
child’s growth patterns.
To determine how well parents actually understand the growth charts,
researchers conducted an online survey of 1,000 U.S. parents about their
knowledge of pediatric growth charts.
When asked to identify a child’s weight by looking at plotted points on a
growth chart, the survey showed that only 64% of parents could correctly do so,
and only 68% could identify the percentile of the plotted point.
In addition, nearly all the parents surveyed (96%) had heard of the term
“percentile,” but only 56% correctly understood the definition of the word.
Finally, when looking at combined height/weight measurement growth charts,
77% incorrectly interpreted the information.
Rather then teaching parents the complicated mathematical concepts behind
the current growth charts, researchers say health educators should invite
parents to help them redesign the charts or come up with other techniques to
help parents understand their child’s growth.