The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) defines children with special health care needs (CSHCN) as:

“...those who have or are at increased risk for a chronic physical, developmental, behavioral, or emotional condition and who also require health and related services of a type or amount beyond that required by children generally.”

This definition is broad and inclusive, incorporating children and youth with a wide range of conditions and risk factors. It also identifies children based on the consequences of an ongoing health condition, not solely on the presence of the condition. The definition is not anchored to a specific set of health conditions, as CSHCN share many common needs regardless of their specific diagnosis (or whether or not their condition has a clear diagnosis).

One of the major goals of the NS-CSHCN is to determine the proportion of children (from birth through 17 years of age), nationally and in each State, who meet this definition. However, because of the difficulty of including the range of factors that might put children at increased risk of special health care needs, the population of children “at increased risk” for chronic conditions has been excluded from this estimate.

This section describes the survey’s findings about the prevalence of special health care needs among children. Throughout The NS-CSHCN Chartbook 2009-2010, the term “children” is used to refer to children and youth from birth through age 17 unless otherwise specified.

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