Height Screening Programmes Beneficial

The research was carried out to determine the health benefits and cost-effectiveness of a UK height screening in primary school-aged children in order to identify abnormal growth problems. A lack of evidence for the cost-effectiveness of generalised child growth screening was given as the reason for downgrading a screening programme ten years ago. The recently updated Child Health Promotion Programme from the Department of Health has stressed the importance of growth, but clear directives as to the importance of early measurement need to be developed.

A child’s height and weight are widely used as indicators of general health and well-being. Differences in height and weight can lead to the early identification of treatable health problems in otherwise apparently healthy children. Despite this, children with a treatable cause of abnormal growth are frequently diagnosed at a late age, lessening the chance of a successful outcome. Monitoring the rise in childhood obesity to allow help to be given sooner is another major benefit of a growth screening programme.

In some cases a short stature can be caused by under-activity by the thyroid gland, by child abuse or neglect, or by persistent growth retardation from other chronic illness. Tall stature is a feature of a number of medical conditions which may also benefit from early treatment. Early detection and diagnosis of abnormal growth is important to allow catch-up to an optimal final adult height and minimise the impact of any underlying conditions.

Professor Gary Butler from the University of Reading’s Institute of Health Sciences said “Our research has shown that such a programme would be cost-effective 100 percent of the time. It is essential that this evidence is used to form an urgent revision of children’s growth screening guidelines by policy makers in the UK.”

MEDICA.de; Source: University of Reading