The WHO Multicentre Growth Reference Study: Planning, study design, and methodology

Mercedes de Onis, Cutberto Garza, Cesar G. Victora, Adelheid W. Onyango, Edward A. Frongillo, Jose Martines

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

397 Scopus citations


The World Health Organization (WHO) Multicentre Growth Reference Study (MGRS) is a community-based, multicountry project to develop new growth references for infants and young children. The design combines a longitudinal study from birth to 24 months with a cross-sectional study of children aged 18 to 71 months. The pooled sample from the six participating countries (Brazil, Ghana, India, Norway, Oman, and the United States) consists of about 8,500 children. The study sub-populations had socioeconomic conditions favorable to growth, and low mobility, with at least 20% of mothers following feeding recommendations and having access to breastfeeding support. The individual inclusion criteria were absence of health or environmental constraints on growth, adherence to MGRS feeding recommendations, absence of maternal smoking, single term birth, and absence of significant morbidity. In the longitudinal study, mothers and newborns were screened and enrolled at birth and visited at home 21 times: at weeks 1, 2, 4, and 6; monthly from 2 to 12 months; and every 2 months in their second year. In addition to the data collected on anthropometry and motor development, information was gathered on socioeconomic, demographic, and environmental characteristics, perinatal factors, morbidity, and feeding practices. The prescriptive approach taken is expected to provide a single international reference that represents the best description of physiological growth for all children under five years of age and to establish the breastfed infant as the normative model for growth and development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalFood and Nutrition Bulletin
Issue number1 SUPPL. 1
StatePublished - Mar 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Anthropometry
  • Child nutrition
  • Childhood growth
  • Growth curves
  • Growth references
  • Infant feeding practices
  • Infant growth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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