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Children with Special Health Care Needs

Narrative

Children are considered to have a special health care need if, in addition to a chronic medical, behavioral, or developmental condition that has lasted or is expected to last 12 months or longer, they experience either service- related or functional consequences, including the need for prescription medications and/ or specialized therapies.1 In 2009-10, 15.1 percent of U.S. children under the age of 18 had a special health care need, representing 11.2 million children. Among households with children under the age of 18 years, 18.3 percent have one child with special health care needs and 4.7 percent have two or more children with such needs, representing 8.7 million households with at least one child who has special health care needs (data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site).

The prevalence of special health care needs in 2009-10 varied by sociodemographic characteristics. Significantly more males than females were reported to have such conditions, 17.4 percent compared to 12.7 percent, as were school-aged children compared to children aged 0-5 years. Approximately 18 percent of children ages 6-11 and 12-17 years were reported to have a special health care need, compared to 9.3 percent of those aged 0-5 years.

The proportion of children with reported special health care needs also varied by race and ethnicity; non-Hispanic children of multiple races had the highest rate (20.0 percent) while non-Hispanic Asian and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander children had the lowest (7.7 and 8.7 percent, respectively). Non- Hispanic Black children had a slightly higher rate (17.5 percent) than non-Hispanic Whites (16.3) while Hispanics had a slightly lower rate (11.2 percent). No significant difference was observed between non-Hispanic Whites and American Indian/Alaska Native children.

1 McPherson M, Arango P, Fox H, et al. A new definition of children with special health care needs. Pediatrics. 1998;102(1): 137–139.

Graphs

This image is described in the Data section.

adopted children by type and sex graph

This image is described in the Data section.

adopted children by tupe and health status graph

Data

Children Under Age 18 with Special Health Care Needs, by Sex and Age, 2009-10
Age Group Percent of Children
Total Male Female
Source: Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs. Unpublished data. Analyzed by the Health Resources and Services Administration's Maternal and Child Health Bureau.
Total 15.1 17.4 12.7
0-5 years 9.3 10.7 7.8
6-11 Years 17.7 21.5 13.8
12-17 Years 18.4 20.2 16.6

Children Under Age 18 with Special Health Care Needs, by Race/Ethnicity, 2009-10

Percent of children:

  • Total: 15.1
  • Non-Hispanic White: 16.3
  • Non-Hispanic Black: 17.5
  • Hispanic: 11.2
  • Non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaska Native: 15.6
  • Non-Hispanic Asian: 7.7
  • Non-Hispanic Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander: 8.7
  • Non-Hispanic Two or More Races: 20

Source: Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs. Unpublished data. Analyzed by the Health Resources and Services Administration's Maternal and Child Health Bureau.