13 Percent of U.S. Children Have Chronic Health Needs

Those problems can place financial strain on families, study finds

FRIDAYY, Sept. 10, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- About 13 percent of U.S. children have special health-care needs, says a study in the September issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

The study also found that many families with children with special health-care needs (SHCNs) experience financial problems due to the child's condition.

The U.S. Maternal and Child Health Care Bureau defines children with SHCNs as "those children who have or are at increased risk for a chronic physical, developmental, behavioral or emotional condition and who also require health care-related services of a type or amount beyond that required by children generally."

For this study, researchers conducted telephone interviews with the families of 38,866 children younger than age 18 with special health-care needs.

The study found that special health-care needs were most common among boys, school-age children, and children in lower-income families, and that 17.7 percent of American children with SHCNs experienced unmet health-care needs.

Nearly 30 percent of the families reported that their child's condition had forced parents to cut back on or quit work, and 20.9 percent of the families said their child's health care led to financial problems.

"Perhaps our most important findings concern the disparities we found in access, satisfaction and impact on the family," the study authors wrote.

"We found consistent patterns of disparities whereby children disadvantaged by low family income, minority racial and ethnic status, lack of health insurance, and greater severity of functional limitations also experienced significantly worse access to care than their more advantaged counterparts," they added.

"To address the disparities raised by the survey data, we need systemic change that establishes universal, sustainable community systems of services for all affected children and their families," the authors concluded in a prepared statement.

More information

The American College of Emergency Physicians has more about children with special health-care needs.

SOURCE: Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, news release, Sept. 6, 2004
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