Bureau turns to WHO for standards in child growth

NOT-SO-SIMPLE FORMULA: To assess the growth of breastfed infants, the WHO began collecting data in 1997. Its findings were released about a decade later

By Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Sun, Nov 02, 2008 - Page 2

Responding to recent reports that it used incorrect child-growth standards for the past 40 years, the Bureau of Health Promotion said yesterday it would adopt new standards implemented by the WHO.

The Chinese-language China Times reported yesterday that the bureau had been using incorrect child growth standards in booklets given to new parents for the past 40 years, causing parents to overfeed their babies and exposing them to increased risks of infant obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

The bureau denied the allegations and said that until April 2006 ?when the WHO publicized its growth standards ?there had been no international standard for assessing the growth and development of infants and young children.

Both the old and new versions of the child growth standards published by the WHO were developed after a long period of study, but the old study sampled infants fed baby formula only, while the new study sampled infants on breast milk, bureau deputy head Wu Shiow-ing (吳秀英) said.

To assess the growth of breastfed infants around the world, in 1997 the WHO started collecting primary growth data from approximately 8,500 children from different ethnic backgrounds and cultural settings. The results were announced 10 years after the study was undertaken.

Wu said that before the results were announced, there had been no international standard.

The slight differences that existed between the two versions were due to different sample pools, she said.

In 2006, the Taiwan Academy of Breastfeeding called on health and medical personnel to adopt the new standards set by the WHO because the old standard, which sampled infants on baby formula who gained weight at a faster pace than breastfed ones, could lead parents who breastfed their babies to believe that their child was growing too slowly.

The bureau said it would use the WHO standard in its new booklet.