What is a chronic health condition?
Identifying the population of children and adolescents with chronic health conditions is difficult, as many health care providers, agencies, insurers, and planners use varying definitions. Conditions are typically classified according to medical diagnosis, functional status, and/or service needs.
The Council for Youths with Chronic Conditions (CYCC) defines a chronic health condition as:

  • Any biologically-based condition.
  • A condition lasting an extended period of time (three months or longer).
  • A condition that brings about significant changes in the life of the child and family.
  • A condition that requires more medical care from primary care and specialty providers than typically required by well child and acute illness visits.

Chronic health conditions cover a wide variety of diagnoses: asthma and allergies; diabetes; hemophilia; cancer; and neuromotor disorders, such as spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, etc.

How does a chronic health condition affect a child?
Children with chronic health conditions may be ill or well at any given time, but they are always living with their condition. Generally, chronic health conditions typically affect children’s lives in negative ways. If a child has a chronic health condition, some problems might include:

  • Physical impediments. This typically consists of discomfort or loss of energy. Children with chronic illnesses can also be afflicted with
  • The restriction of activities and disruption of life due to medical treatment. Children with chronic illnesses visit their doctors more frequently and may endure more hospital visits than healthy children
  • Isolation from family and friends. A chronic health condition can cause an enormous amount of stress on the entire family, both emotionally and financially.
  • Changing body image. A chronic illness can exacerbate fears and worries about body image and attractiveness.
  • Changes in peer relationships. As children develop through adolescence, peers tend to take on a more significant role. A child with a chronic illness may have self-esteem issues and worries about whether he or she will be accepted, leading to feelings of embarrassment or stigmatization.

How does a chronic health condition affect a family?
A child’s on-going health condition can cause an enormous amount of stress on the entire family, both emotionally and financially. These children and their families face numerous challenges, including school and education issues, insurance and medical concerns, and family support needs.

How many children are affected by a chronic illness?
Approximately 42,000 (or 1 in 6) New Hampshire children suffer from a chronic health condition. At least 10,000 of these children have severe to life-threatening illnesses. Chronic health conditions can include:

  • Asthma and allergies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 6.7 million American children (or 9.1 percent of the child population) have asthma, making it the most common chronic disease among children. The CDC also estimates 7.4 million children suffered from hay fever in the past 12 months. Meanwhile, food allergies occur in roughly six to eight percent of children under the age of four.
  • Cancer. The National Cancer Institute says cancer is the leading cause of death by disease among U.S. children between infancy and age 15. Over 15,720 new cases of pediatric cancer were diagnosed in children 0 to 14 years of age in 2017. Among the major types of childhood cancers, leukemias (blood cell cancers) and brain, and other central nervous system (CNS) tumors account for more than half of new cases.
  • Diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, 186,300 children and adolescents under the age of 20 have diabetes. Also, two million adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 (or one in six overweight adolescents) have pre-diabetes, which is when an individual’s blood glucose levels that are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Recent research has shown that some long-term damage to the body, especially the heart and circulatory system, may already be occurring during pre-diabetes.