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Grow Clinic

Little boy posing with Elmo

The Grow Clinic at St. Christopher’s Hospital in North Philadelphia provides integrative medical care for young children with “failure to thrive.” The Clinic works to prevent the long-term health and developmental effects in young children caused by inadequate nutrition. The Grow Clinic serves more than 300 families per year in Philadelphia. St. Christopher’s Grow Clinic was modeled after the Grow Clinic at Boston Medical Center, started by Deborah Frank, a pediatrician and founding researcher with Children’s HealthWatch.

The Philadelphia GROW Project was launched in 2003 by Mariana Chilton, PhD, and became a part of the Center during its creation in 2004. It was renamed the Grow Clinic in 2005. The Center oversaw the funding and operations of the project during its first six years. In 2010, the clinic began transitioning to new leadership. This transition was completed in 2013 and the Grow Clinic now operates independently from the Center.

The Grow Clinic acknowledges that babies' first three years are important. The body and brain of babies grow very fast. If children are underweight or don’t like to eat, they may have a problem called “failure to thrive.” 

What is “failure to thrive”?

Children who are underweight or height for their age compared with other children their age and who have problems growing may have failure to thrive.

What are the characteristics of a child with failure to thrive?

The following are criteria for a child to be referred to the Grow Clinic:

  • Height/weight falls below 5% for age
  • Weight declines by two major percentages over six months time
  • Weight is less than 3% for age on two occasions
  • Weight less than 80% of ideal weight for age

Children with the above criteria are excluded if they have a known metabolic syndrome (e.g. PKU) or organic disease (e.g. congenital heart defect). These children should be referred to their respective specialty clinic.

What is the impact of failure to thrive? 

Children who have failure to thrive are at risk for long-term health and developmental impacts. They tend to demonstrate:

  • Shorter attention spans
  • Increased risk of being sick or hospitalized
  • Emotional problems
  • Delayed learning and language abilities
  • Limited fine and gross motor skills
  • Persistent failure to grow
  • Problems getting along with other children

How does the Grow Clinic help children with failure to thrive?

The Grow Clinic employs a multi-disciplinary team of medical physician, nurse practitioner, child psychologist, nutritionist and social worker. Together they work to address the complex health, psychosocial and economic issues of under-nutrition within the family unit in conjunction with providing needed medical care to the child. The clinic works with the child’s parent to develop a comprehensive treatment plan to improve nutrition and promote growth for the child and family.

What services does the Grow Clinic provide? 

The GROW Clinic provides many services including but are not limited to:

  • healthcare evaluation and treatment
  • psychosocial treatment
  • social services assessment
  • developmental assessment
  • behavioral counseling
  • social work services.

For more information, call 1.888.STCHRIS or visit the Grow Clinic website.

For an appointment at the Grow Clinic, call 215.427.GROW (4769)