New Growth Charts Aim To Identify Childhood Obesity

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Federal health officials last week released new growth charts designed to help identify weight problems in children early.

For More Information

Review the government's new growth charts.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued the new pediatric-growth charts that will allow pediatricians, nurses, and nutritionists to track a child's growth and alert parents to any potential health problems.

Concern about adolescent and childhood obesity has increased in recent years as research has shown the problem doubling among America's young in the past 20 years.

Young people who are overweight are faced with increased risks for future health problems, including high blood pressure, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

The new growth charts—now more reflective of the cultural and racial diversity in the U.S. population—introduces a body-mass-index assessment for boys and girls ages 2 to 20. Body-mass index is calculated from a person's weight and height measurements. It is commonly used to determine if adults are overweight or obese.

"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," Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna E. Shalala said at a national "nutrition summit" in Washington last week.

Help in Schools

The charts may prove to be an effective tool not only for health-care providers seeking to educate parents about their children's growth patterns, but also for schools and school-based health clinics.

While most schools do not have specific programs to address students' weight problems, school nurses will be able to use the charts to identify such problems, said Marcia Rubin, the director of research for the American School Health Association based in Kent, Ohio.

School nurses can identify problems, Ms. Rubin said, and then notify parents so they can devise an appropriate program to help their children.

Because many school nurses don't have the time for such counseling, "school-based clinics are in a better position to sit down with a student and his or her family to design a program that will help a student," Ms. Rubin suggested.

The new charts are based on data gathered through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey by the National Center for Health Statistics, the arm of the CDC responsible for creating the original growth charts in 1977.

The new charts indicate that children, in general, are heavier than they were in 1977 but that height has remained unchanged.

Vol. 19, Issue 39, Page 9

Published in Print: June 7, 2000, as New Growth Charts Aim To Identify Childhood Obesity
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