Health Care Use and Health and Functional Impact of Developmental Disabilities Among US Children, 1997-2005

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Abstract

Objective

To present nationally representative estimates of health-related limitations, needs, and service use among US children with and without developmental disabilities (DDs).

Design

Retrospective analysis of data from a sample of US households from the 1997–2005 National Health Interview Surveys.

Participants

Children aged 3 to 17 years (n = 95 132).

Main Outcome Measures

Parents or other knowledgeable adults reported on their children's DDs, health needs, and use of health and education services. Developmental disabilities included attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism, blindness, cerebral palsy, deaf/a lot of trouble hearing, learning disability, mental retardation, seizures, stuttering/stammering, and other developmental delay.

Results

Among children with 1 or more DDs, prevalence estimates for limitations in movement (6.1%), needed help with personal care (3.2%), needed special equipment (3.5%), received home health care (1.4%), and regularly took prescription medication(s) (37.5%) were 4 to 32 times higher than for children without DDs. Children with DDs were 2 to 8 times as likely to have had more than 9 health care visits (14.9%), received special education (38.8%), had a surgical or medical procedure (7.5%), and recently visited a medical specialist (23.9%), mental health professional (26.6%), therapist/allied health professional (19.6%), and/or emergency department (10.3%). Effects were generally stable during the study interval and independent of age, race, sex, and family income. Cerebral palsy, autism, mental retardation, blindness, and deafness/a lot of trouble hearing were associated with the highest levels of health and functional impact indicators.

Conclusions

Developmental disabilities profoundly affect children's health and functioning. These data can inform evidence-based targeted prevention strategies for minimizing functional limitations and lifetime disability. Additional study of unmet needs and access to care is needed.

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