Color-Coded Charts Increase Parental Awareness of BMI

Charts may be useful in pediatric practices, especially for parents with lower education levels
By Rick Ansorge
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Sept. 21 (HealthDay News) -- In pediatric practices, color-coded charting may improve parental understanding of body mass index (BMI), according to a study in the September/October issue of Academic Pediatrics.

Matthew D. Oettinger, of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, and colleagues studied a diverse group of 163 parents of children ages 2 to 8 years at two academic pediatric centers.

Initially, the researchers found that 60 percent were aware of BMI but that only 30 percent could define it at least partially correctly. They found that the use of color-coded charts was associated with greater odds of answering BMI-related questions correctly (mean, 88 percent) than the use of standard charts (mean, 65 percent). They also found that the use of color-coded charts increased comprehension more among parents with grade-school-level numeracy than it did among patients with at least high-school-level numeracy.

"Our results suggest that color-coded BMI charts increase the number of parents who will understand BMI charting, particularly those with lower numeracy," the authors conclude. "Color-coded BMI charting may be one element in the growing repertoire of tools to assist pediatricians in effectively communicating with parents and may help start a conversation of therapeutic lifestyle change in an era of a childhood obesity epidemic."

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