For a better experience, click the Compatibility Mode icon above to turn off Compatibility Mode, which is only for viewing older websites.

Grow Clinic

Little boy posing with Elmo

The Grow Clinic was a specialized clinic at St. Christopher’s Hospital in North Philadelphia that provided integrative medical care for young children with “failure to thrive.” The Clinic worked to prevent long-term health and developmental effects in young children caused by inadequate nutrition. The Grow Clinic served more than 300 families per year in Philadelphia and 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 for Hunger-Free Communities during its creation in 2004. It was renamed the Grow Clinic in 2005. The Center oversaw the funding and operation of the project during its first six years. In 2010, the clinic began transitioning to new leadership. Upon completion in 2013, the Grow Clinic operated independently from the Center.

While the Grow Clinic is now closed, St. Christopher's continues to support children experiencing failure to thrive through their Gastroenterology (GI) Department. To schedule an appointment at St. Christopher’s GI Department, call 888.CHRISKIDS.

What is “failure to thrive”?

Babies' first three years are the most important as 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. 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?

  • 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 did the Grow Clinic help children with failure to thrive?

The Grow Clinic employed a multi-disciplinary team of medical physician, nurse practitioner, child psychologist, nutritionist, and social worker. Together they worked 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 worked with the child’s parent to develop a comprehensive treatment plan to improve nutrition and promote growth for the child and family. 

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

  • Healthcare evaluation and treatment
  • Psychosocial treatment
  • Social services assessment
  • Developmental assessment
  • Behavioral counseling
  • Social work services