Mobile makeover for NZ children growth charts

08 September 2017
Woman on mobile phone

New Zealand researchers are on a quest to give growth charts for babies and young children an interactive makeover in a bid to tackle childhood obesity.

The National Science Challenge, A Better Start; the charity, Cure Kids; and data science experts, Precision Driven Health have joined forces to create the new electronic and interactive charts which can be viewed on a smartphone.

The makeover was prompted by research which found that many New Zealanders had a limited understanding of the standardised growth chart which appears in a child’s Well Child Tamariki Ora: My Health Book.


This leaves many parents and caregivers unable to make informed and appropriate health decisions about their child’s wellbeing, including their weight.


The study’s Principal Investigator, Gayl Humphrey, says the project aims to increase health literacy among parents and families and provide greater awareness of healthy growth patterns in their children.  


“We wanted to use smartphones to create a tool that is easy for parents and families to use which enables growth information to be entered in a simple and informative way, highlighting a child’s growth curves and interpreting what that means.


“It will also provide support to parents around strategies and actions, if there is a concern raised about the changes in their child’s development,” she says.


Cure Kids’ CEO, Frances Benge, says that the study has the potential to help reduce obesity rates among children.


There are currently 85,000 New Zealand children between the ages of 2 and 14 who are obese.


“Childhood obesity rates have risen dramatically since the late 1970s. Yet health literacy research has found most New Zealanders are limited in their ability to understand basic health information in order to make appropriate health decisions,” Ms Benge says.


“Assisting parents to better engage with monitoring their child’s growth will help them to understand and participate in managing eating, activity, sleeping and related behaviours.”


A Better Start’s Director, Professor Wayne Cutfield, says the interactive growth chart fits well with the National Science Challenge’s strategy to intervene as early as possible.


“The overwhelming evidence is that investing in child health early delivers the greatest payback for society, and most importantly for children and their families,” he says.


Precision Drive Health general manager, Dr Kevin Ross, says the new interactive tool will also be specifically designed to reflect New Zealand’s ethnic diversity.


“Most parents will be familiar with growth charts; however, many don’t realise these charts are not based on Kiwi kids, which means the data may not be as relevant given the unique ethnic and social make-up of our population,” Dr Ross says.


The two-year research project commences this month. For further information, please visit Precision Driven Health.