Research Articles

Doctors’ attitudes to and knowledge and usage of growth charts

Selma Smith, Elizabeth Reji
South African Family Practice | VOL 57, NO 3 : May/June| a3973 | DOI: | ©
Submitted: 27 November 2013 | Published: 12 July 2015

About the author(s)

Selma Smith, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Elizabeth Reji, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

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Background: Growth charts are used worldwide for almost 40 years but the use of the growth charts has always been fraught with problems.

Methods: A cross-sectional descriptive study was carried out on the reported usage of the growth charts and whether there are factors that affect usage by the general practitioners working with children in the public hospitals.

Data was collected through the use of a self-administered questionnaire. The questionnaire covered four concepts: demographic factors; doctors' self-reported growth chart usage; doctors’ attitude towards growth monitoring; and use of growth charts and doctors’ knowledge in terms of plotting, interpretation, management of growth patterns.

Results: A total of 90 out of 100 doctors completed questionnaires. More than half (57%) of the doctors’ had high workloads. Fifty-six (62,2%) doctors thought they were too busy to use growth charts. Only 37 (41%) doctors achieved an acceptable total knowledge score. Although just over two-thirds of doctors (67,8%) reported a positive attitude towards growth monitoring, their reported usage does not reflect it. Fifty-four (60%) doctors plotted weights correctly. Doctors recognised the most probable cause for the given growth patterns. However, most doctors struggled to choose the most appropriate management option. Skill in plotting was associated with more regular usage. Better knowledge and a positive attitude were associated with higher usage whereas a perception of high workload and years of experience were associated with lower levels of utilisation.

Conclusions: While doctors reported a positive attitude towards the use of growth charts, they lacked knowledge to utilise them optimally and reported that the chart was often not used.

(Full text available online at

S Afr Fam Pract 2015; DOI: 10.1080/20786190.2014.976978


Attitude of health personnel, Medical staff, Growth monitoring, Growth charts, Road to Health Booklet, Knowledge


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