View/download PDF of New Growth Charts (407 KB)
HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala has 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 childrens 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
childrens 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 childs 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
The revised pediatric growth charts
more accurately reflect the Nations 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
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 at http://www.cdc.gov/growthcharts.
A more comprehensive report will follow in the fall.