Canadian groups adopt guidelines for kids health

by Eric Schroeder
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TORONTO — Four of the top national health professional associations in Canada collectively have recommended the adoption of the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) Growth Charts for monitoring the growth of Canadian children in all primary health care and clinical settings. The groups — the Dietitians of Canada, the Canadian Paediatric Society, The College of Family Physicians of Canada and the Community Health Nurses of Canada — had supported the use of growth charts developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since 2004.

By switching to the W.H.O. charts, the associations said they expect more babies and children will be identified as overweight or obese.

“The way a child grows says a lot about his or her health,” said Donna Secker, clinical dietitian at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. “Growing too quickly or too slowly can be a sign of possible problems with health or nutrition. The use of standardized methods and tools by health care providers to monitor growth is one way to help identify problems early so that appropriate action can be taken to prevent serious problems with growth and development.”

Among the advantages the associations cited with the W.H.O. charts include:

• The W.H.O. Growth Standards for children 0-5 years of age are based on a population of infants and children nurtured under optimal health conditions, including breastfeeding for at least four to six months. These charts show how children should grow rather than how they do grow.

• The W.H.O. charts address the growth of a multi-ethnic international population and are therefore reflective of the Canadian ethnic makeup.

• The W.H.O. Growth Reference 2007 recommended for older children (5 to 19 years) is a better tool for identifying children at risk for obesity.

“We are recommending that children be weighed and measured by their health care provider within one to two weeks of birth, at 2, 4, 6, 9, 12, 18 and 24 months, then once per year for children over 2 years and for adolescents,” said Valerie Marchand, chair of the CPS Nutrition & Gastroenterology Committee. “For those children that may not visit their care provider regularly, growth assessment should also occur at acute care visits when a child is ill, keeping in mind that illness may affect weight.”

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