Challenges of Serving Special Needs Children

Each child’s healthcare needs are unique. Luckily, most children are in good health and only need health care for check-ups or if they are hurt. Some children, however, have health conditions that cause them to need more health care than the average child their age. These children with special health care needs (CSHCN) have physical, behavioral or emotional conditions that are expected to last for an extended period of time and that require special treatment, therapy, or medication.

A new analysis of the 2012 Ohio Medicaid Assessment Survey, a statewide health survey, shows that more than one in five Ohio children (about 670,000 youths) between the ages of zero and eighteen meet this definition. This number has grown by more than 60,000 children since 2008. Ohio’s CSHCN live in poorer families than other children. They are also more likely to have unmet health care needs for things like prescription medication, medical care, and dental care. Unmet needs are greatest for children whose health limits their ability to do things that other children their age can do.

Why do we want to focus attention on children with special health care needs? Because keeping their conditions under control can increase quality of life, reduce missed school and work days, and reduce healthcare cost. Parents of children with special health care needs are encouraged to build strong personal relationships with their doctor so that they receive care that is coordinated and complete. Parents of teens with special health care needs should also talk to their doctors about helping their teen to transition to adult care providers and to begin taking responsibility for health self-management when the time is right. You can find out more about our profile of children with special health care needs and other results from the Ohio Medicaid Assessment Survey.


Deena Chisolm, PhD
Dr. Chisolm is a Principal Investigator in the Center for Innovation in Pediatric Practice at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, and is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health. She is a Health Services Epidemiologist whose research is focused on measuring and improving the effectiveness, efficiency, and equity of pediatric health care. Much of her current research is focused on the role of health care technology in improving pediatric health care quality. She is also interested in research investigating the factors associated with use of e-health services by at-risk youth. In addition, Dr. Chisolm serves as a resource to Nationwide Children’s Hospital clinical researchers on issues including: the use of clinical and administrative data in research, cost-effectiveness analysis, and quality indicator development.

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