See How They Grow

See How They Grow

In partnership with Cure Kids and the National Science Challenge A Better Start, PDH supported the work led by The University of Auckland’s Gayl Humphrey on the project “See how they grow: Developing and trialling an interactive Child Growth Chart for New Zealand children”. Based on New Zealand (NZ) health literacy research, it was found that the majority of NZers faced difficulty in understanding basic health information.


To provide a solution to these issues, Ms Hymphrey and her team designed, developed and tested for acceptability and utility, a web-based electronic interactive child growth application. The aim of this was to assist parents to better engage with monitoring their child(ren)’s growth, and to help them understand and participate in managing their eating, activity, sleeping and related behaviours. Because the first two years of life are critical for subsequent growth trajectories and health, there was a focus on children up to two years old.

The findings

The team conducted a two-phased approach but only Phase II was conducted using the app. Phase one used focus groups (parents and professionals such as paediatricians and midwives) and a national online survey to gather information to build the app. Phase two involved testing the app over 12-weeks, with parents or carers of children aged up to two years. 

Four focus groups and 101 responses to the national survey helped inform the research team which features and functionalities they would include in the final app. 

Phase II Brief Findings

  • 225 participants downloaded the app, resulting in 208 eligible participants.
  • Non-Maori/Non-Pacific (78%) and Māori (14%) had the highest downloads.
  • 54% of the participants were parents of children under 6-months (this group were also more likely to use the app regularly than those with older children.)
  • More than half of the participants entered three growth measures – weight, length/height, and/or head circumference.
  • 101 completed the follow-up survey, 72 reported that the app helped them better understand how to interpret growth charts.

Although the app was found to be useful for understanding a child’s growth trajectory, a larger trial will be needed to assess if the app can have a measurable impact on increasing knowledge and behaviour, and therefore preventing childhood obesity and overweight.

Read the full report

Read our press release about this project (8 September 2017)

Principal Investigator: Gayl Humphrey, The University of Auckland

The mission behind A better Start 

The overarching aim of A Better Start is to “prevent and treat childhood vulnerability in obesity, poor literacy and behavioural problems through research excellence that will achieve healthy, well-adjusted and well-educated children and young people”. Their research focuses on childhood obesity by working with providers and families to improve knowledge, understanding and support sustainable change. 

We have a growing issue in (NZ) as childhood obesity has increased dramatically from the late 1970s, more than doubling among both boys and girls. While 22% of NZ children were reported as overweight, actual child obesity (Body Mass Index >30) has increased from 8% in 2006/7 to 11 % in 2014/15. Ethnic and socioeconomic differences are significant: children living in the most degraded areas are five times more likely to be obese than children living in the least degraded areas. 

To prevent a child’s health issues it is recommended that NZ children should have their growth monitored through weight and height measurement using NZ-World Health Organisation age-and sex-specific growth charts. The outcomes are usually recorded in a Well Child Tamariki Ora book that provides not only the growth charts but other health and wellbeing information for families.