Growth Assessment: Well-Child Health Care Fact Sheet

Screening tests to identify health conditions that might need further assessment are an important part of well-child health care. In this fact sheet, Head Start health managers, health staff, and disability coordinators will find a concise description of the screening for growth assessment.

What Is Growth Assessment?
How Is Growth Assessment Done?
What Might I Observe?
Follow-Up to Growth Assessment

What is growth assessment?

Growth assessment measures a child's height, weight, and head circumference (for infants). Growth is a sign of a child's overall physical and emotional health.

How is growth assessment done?

Growth is measured by a health care provider or Head Start staff. A wall-mounted height measure, balance-beam scale, and tape measure are used.

The child's measurements are recorded on a standardized growth chart.

Measurements are:

  • Compared to other children the same age and sex to give a "percentile"
  • Followed over time to give a "growth curve"

What might I observe?

A child may appear...

  • Very short, thin, large, or overweight
  • Too thin or too heavy for his height
  • To have his head too large or small for his body

Follow-up to growth assessment

The parents' height/weight and race are taken into account to determine the child's "normal" growth.

A child should be referred to his health care provider for further evaluation for:

  • Height or weight below 5th or above 95th percentile
  • Head circumference below 2nd or above 98th percentile
  • Failure to grow along the growth curve

Causes of growth problems might include:

  • Improper nutrition-not enough, too much, or unhealthy foods
  • Serious medical illness
  • Severe family problems

Treatment might include:

  • Nutritional counseling and dietary supplements
  • Treatment of medical conditions causing the growth problem
  • Mental health counseling/consultation for the child, family, and staff

When growth problems are identified and treated early, the child's health and well-being are improved.

Growth Assessment: Well-Child Health Care Fact Sheet. Well-Child Health Care: Making It Happen. DHHS/ACF/ACYF/HSB. 1998. English.

Last Reviewed: February 2009

Last Updated: May 26, 2015