Chronic health conditions affect many children and adolescents. These conditions are illnesses or impairments that are expected to last for an extended period of time and require medical attention and care that is above and beyond what would normally be expected for a child or adolescent of the same age, extensive hospitalization, or in-home health services.1 These conditions include, among others, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, spina bifida, hemophilia, seizure disorders, neuromuscular disease, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, and congenital heart diseases. Although each specific condition may be relatively or extremely rare, when they are considered together, many children and adolescents are affected.
Health conditions may be characterized by their duration and their severity. Although these terms are often linked, they refer to different aspects of a health condition. A chronic condition is generally one that has lasted or is expected to last more than a defined period of time, usually 3 months or longer. Conditions vary widely in their onset, course, and duration.2 Severity refers to the impact a condition has on a child's physical, intellectual, psychological, or social functioning.3 This impact may occur as a result of persistent symptoms, required treatments, limitations of activity or mobility, or interference with school, recreation, work, and family activities.
Current estimates are that between 10 and 20 million American children and adolescents have some type of chronic health condition or impairment. Most of these conditions are relatively mild and interfere little with the children's ability to participate in usual childhood activities.4 However.
- Copyright © 1993 by the American Academy of Pediatrics