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Parental Understanding of Growth Charts Is Limited

Last Updated: September 28, 2009.

Although pediatricians commonly share children's growth chart data with parents, many parents have a poor understanding of the data, according to a study in the October issue of Pediatrics.

MONDAY, Sept. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Although pediatricians commonly share children's growth chart data with parents, many parents have a poor understanding of the data, according to a study in the October issue of Pediatrics.

Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, M.D., of the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del., and colleagues conducted an online survey of 1,000 parents who represented the demographic distribution of the United States.

The researchers found that most parents reported seeing a growth chart, thought they understood it, and believed it was an important confirmation of their pediatrician's verbal interpretation. However, they also found that only about two-thirds of parents could correctly identify a child's weight when shown a plotted point on a growth chart or identify the percentile of the plotted point; only 56 percent could correctly define the term "percentile;" and up to 77 percent incorrectly interpreted charts containing height/weight measurements in tandem.

"Future considerations and research on which communication and teaching methods are most effective will require the input of parents and caregivers," the authors conclude. "Rather than devising methods for teaching parents complicated mathematical concepts, clinicians and health educators would be wise to let parents be the teachers, by inviting parents to assist in developing the best methods to facilitate understanding of complex health concepts such as growth."

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