Objective: There are no locally derived growth charts in Nigeria, and so, health workers rely on international reference charts. We therefore compared the growth characteristics of 4350 school-age Nigerian children (SNC) (2243 girls, 2107 boys) (4–16 years) from three ethnic groups (Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba) to both the UK (UK 1990) and US (2000 CDC) reference data.
Results: Height of SNC was similar to international references at the start of school age and then started to decline. The decline appeared to peak at 15 years for boys and 13 years for girls. At all ages, sex, ethnicity and affluence, SNC were lighter than international references. There were significant differences in the prevalence of stunting, underweight and obesity among the three ethnic groups (p < 0.05).
Conclusion: There is a risk of over-diagnosing short stature and underweight if health workers continue to use growth charts derived from other geographical areas.