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Open Access Research article

Extending World Health Organization weight-for-age reference curves to older children

Celia Rodd1*, Daniel L Metzger2, Atul Sharma34 and the Canadian Pediatric Endocrine Group (CPEG) Working Committee for National Growth Charts

Author Affiliations

1 Section of Pediatric Endocrinology, Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg, FW 302-685 William Ave, Winnipeg, MB R3E 0Z2, Canada

2 Division of Pediatric Endocrinology, BC Children’s Hospital, 4480 Oak Street, Vancouver, BC V6H 3V4, Canada

3 Department of Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg, 840 Sherbrook Street, Winnipeg, MB R3A 1S1, Canada

4 Biostatistical Consulting Unit, George and Fay Yee Center for Healthcare Innovation, University of Manitoba, GH706-820 Sherbrook Street, Winnipeg, MB R3A1R9, Canada

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BMC Pediatrics 2014, 14:32  doi:10.1186/1471-2431-14-32

Published: 3 February 2014



For ages 5–19 years, the World Health Organization (WHO) publishes reference charts based on ‘core data’ from the US National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), collected from 1963–75 on 22,917 US children. To promote the use of body mass index in older children, weight-for-age was omitted after age 10. Health providers have subsequently expressed concerns about this omission and the selection of centiles. We therefore sought to extend weight-for-age reference curves from 10 to 19 years by applying WHO exclusion criteria and curve fitting methods to the core NCHS data and to revise the choice of displayed centiles.


WHO analysts first excluded ~ 3% of their reference population in order to achieve a “non-obese sample with equal height”. Based on these exclusion criteria, 314 girls and 304 boys were first omitted for ‘unhealthy’ weights-for-height. By applying WHO global deviance and information criteria, optimal Box-Cox power exponential models were used to fit smoothed weight-for-age centiles. Bootstrap resampling was used to assess the precision of centile estimates. For all charts, additional centiles were included in the healthy range (3 to 97%), and the more extreme WHO centiles 0.1 and 99.9% were dropped.


In addition to weight-for-age beyond 10 years, our charts provide more granularity in the centiles in the healthy range −2 to +2 SD (3–97%). For both weight and BMI, the bootstrap confidence intervals for the 99.9th centile were at least an order of magnitude wider than the corresponding 50th centile values.


These charts complement existing WHO charts by allowing weight-for-age to be plotted concurrently with height in older children. All modifications followed strict WHO methodology and utilized the same core data from the US NCHS. The additional centiles permit a more precise assessment of normal growth and earlier detection of aberrant growth as it crosses centiles. Elimination of extreme centiles reduces the risk of misclassification. A complete set of charts is available at the CPEG web site ( webcite).

Growth; Growth charts; Anthropometry; Pediatrics; Child