Failure to thrive historical perspective

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Akash Daswaney, M.B.B.S[2]


Amidst rapidly rising infant and child death rates, Dr. Henry Dwight was the first to add a clean environment and constant supervision to the management strategy of failure to thrive patients. As time has progressed, red flags and the present strategy of nutritional rehabilitation followed by a vigilant and prolonged follow up period has been developed.

Historical Perspective

  • In the early 1900s, infant and child death rates in the United States were skyrocketing.
  • In 1915, an American pediatrician, Dr. Henry Dwight Chapin, institutionalized marasmic infants under constant medical and nursing supervision. [1]
    • He reported decreased mortality rates with this strategy of a multidisciplinary approach, nutritional rehabilitation and maintaining a proper home environment.
  • In 1952, Rene Spitz used the term ‘hospitalism’ for children who presented with growth failure, malnutrition and anaclitic depression.
    • He noticed a synergy between caloric deprivation and lack of emotional stimulation causing failure to thrive.
  • In 1957, Coleman and Provence concluded that failure to thrive could only be avoided in the complete absence of emotional or caloric deprivation and in the presence of a good home environment. [2]


  1. Goldbloom RB (1982). "Failure to thrive". Pediatr Clin North Am. 29 (1): 151–66. doi:10.1016/s0031-3955(16)34114-1. PMID 6276853.
  2. Larson-Nath C, Biank VF (2016). "Clinical Review of Failure to Thrive in Pediatric Patients". Pediatr Ann. 45 (2): e46–9. doi:10.3928/00904481-20160114-01. PMID 26878182.

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