Children with Special Health Care Needs

State of Children's Health in Wisconsin

Children with Special Health Care Needs

What is the definition?

The American Academy of Pediatrics defines children with special health care needs as “children 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.”

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Examples of children with special health care needs can include children with any of the following: ADHD, asthma, autism spectrum disorders, childhood cancers, cerebral palsy, deaf or blind, diabetes, Down syndrome, heart disease, and mental health conditions.

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How many children are affected?1

In Wisconsin, 201,500 or 15.5 percent of children have a special health care need. Of these children:

  • About 11 percent of their families spend at least 11 hours/week providing and/or coordinating care.
  • About 11 percent do not have a usual source of care when they are sick/rely on an emergency room.
  • Children with special health care needs whose parents describe their current health insurance as adequate versus not adequate more frequently received effective care coordination (49.6 percent versus 33.5 percent).

What are strategies to help?

It is essential that children with special health care needs have a medical home. The National Center for Medical Home Implementation notes that a medical home” is the model for 21st century primary care, with a goal of addressing and integrating high quality health promotion, acute care and chronic condition management in a planned, coordinated, and family-centered manner.”

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The concept of care coordination is an integral part of the medical home, and according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Children With Disabilities involves “a process that links children with special health care needs and their families to services and resources in a coordinated effort to maximize the potential of the children and provide them with optimal health care.”

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A Great Medical Home

  • Knows its population
  • Partners with and learns from youth and families
  • Uses a proactive team approach
  • Connects with other organization
  • Offers safe, efficient care while preventing duplication

Adapted from the Center for Medical Home Improvement

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Wisconsin Children with Special Health Care Needs Who Receive Comprehensive Care

Successfully achieved 56
Not achieved 44



  1. Based on data from 2009/10 National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs