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Keywords:

  • growth chart;
  • monitoring;
  • screening;
  • promotion;
  • malnutrition;
  • prevention

Summary

Objective  Growth Monitoring and Promotion programs (GMP) have been intensively promoted to improve children's health in developing countries. It has been hoped that regularly weighing children would result in the early detection of growth falterers, and that the growth chart would serve as an educational tool to make that state apparent to both health workers and caretakers in order to trigger improved caring practices. Our objective was to review whether GMP answers the theoretical grounds of a screening and intervention program.

Method  A systematic literature review was performed. The WHO framework developed by Wilson and Jungner for planning and evaluating screening programs guided the analysis.

Results  Sixty-nine studies were retrieved. Overall, evidence is weak on the performance of GMP as a screening program for malnutrition through early detection of growth falterers. The main results are: (1) malnutrition remains a public health problem, but its importance is context specific; (2) the value of a low weight velocity to predict malnutrition is unknown and likely to vary in different contexts; (3) the performance of GMP for improving nutrition status of children and in reducing mortality and morbidity is unknown; (4) the performance of the screening is affected by the unreliability of weight measurements; (5) the promotional and educational effectiveness of GMP is low, in particular the growth chart is poorly understood by mothers; (6) the acceptability seems low in regards of low attendance rates; (7) evidence is lacking regarding cost-effectiveness.

Conclusions  We conclude that there is too little scientific evidence to indiscriminately support international promotion of GMP. However GMP could constitute a valid strategy of public nutrition in specific situations. We indicate paths for further research and how prevention programs could be developed.