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Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2009 Jan;163(1):19-26. doi: 10.1001/archpediatrics.2008.506.

Health care use and health and functional impact of developmental disabilities among US children, 1997-2005.

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  • 1National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Rd, Mail Stop E86, Atlanta, GA 30333, USA.



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


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


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


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.


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.


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.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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