The growth charts of the new health book illustrate how much French children have grown and strengthened in forty years
The growth charts of the health book were out of date, and for good reason: they had not been updated for two generations. The new version will reflect how much children have grown up in half a century.
The parents did not know it, but the health book had for a very long time been showing the same graphs, established in 1979 „from the measurements of a few hundred children born in the 1950s“. In other words, children of the 21st century were compared to their ancestors.
In the 2018 edition of this health book, available April 1, the tool will finally be reliable.
„Fewer parents and doctors had confidence in these curves, while it is an essential and inexpensive tool,“ says AFP Barbara Heude, researcher member of the team that redesigned these curves.
„It’s not fair to ask if a child is normal or not, they are benchmarks to help detect health problems, a tool now perfectly calibrated,“ she adds.
– 5 million measurements –
„For example, at age 10, the median height of girls in new references is 139.5 cm against 134.7 cm“ on the curves drawn in 1979, noted the National Institute of Health and Research medical (Inserm) in a statement.
A two-year-old boy today measures on average about 88 cm, compared to 86 cm in the old curves. At six years old, it reaches 1,18 m, against 1,14 m formerly.
„We can see that children eight and ten years old are much larger than those of the years 1960-70.“ The size of adults has also increased, but not so much, „said the president of the French Association of Ambulatory Pediatrics, Sylvie Hubinois.
To arrive at these figures, researchers from Inserm’s epidemiology and statistics laboratory in Paris collected „5 million measurements collected on children aged 0 to 18“ in 2017.
These measurements of weight, height and head circumference were performed by 42 pediatricians randomly selected. „Aberrant or pathological values“ and children born with a weight of less than 2.5 kg were eliminated, leaving a total of 261,000.
– Detection of obesity –
„For us, there was no surprise in the numbers, we grow faster, earlier, and this difference appears very young,“ said Ms. Heude.
To explain this, the scientific community points to improvements in nutrition and sanitary conditions, as well as earlier puberty. And some suspect environmental and hormonal factors.
One of the issues is the detection of childhood obesity, which increased significantly from the 1970s to 2000, before stabilizing. According to Public Health France, 17% of 6-17 year olds are overweight, of whom 4% are obese.
„What worries a pediatrician is a deviation up or down: be careful, your child is getting too fat, or he has stopped growing, for example,“ says Dr. Hubinois.
And the most important curve is that of the corpulence. But only „from two years“, recalls Inserm. Before two years, every child goes through a phase where it is chubby, a „peak adiposity“ as scientists call it, around the age of nine to twelve months. The „body mass index“ does not take its meaning until after.
In addition, the size of the parents must be taken into account.
The new health book thus gives a „formula for calculating the parental target size“, namely a useful comparison value at the age of 18 years. It corresponds to the average of the size of the father and the mother, to which one adds 13 cm for the boys, or one withdraws 13 cm for the girls.