Predictors of children's healthcare use: the value of child versus parental perspectives on healthcare needs

Med Care. 2004 Mar;42(3):232-8. doi: 10.1097/01.mlr.0000115196.02425.05.


Objective: The objective of this study was to examine the relationship between healthcare use and children's healthcare needs as assessed from the perspectives of children themselves, parents, and healthcare practitioners.

Research design: We conducted a prospective cohort study in which service use was monitored for the 12 months before and after administration of a health survey.

Subjects: We studied 384 parents and children aged 6 to 11 years enrolled for 2 years in a northern California health maintenance organization or a Medicaid managed care program in Rhode Island.

Measures: Child and parent perspectives on needs were determined using the Child Health and Illness Profile, Child Edition (CHIP-CE). Plan administrative data were used to develop a treated morbidity index, which was based on diagnosis codes recorded by practitioners during the year before the survey and to obtain prospective measures of service use.

Results: For both child- and parent-respondents, low satisfaction and comfort scale scores from the CHIP-CE were significant predictors of number of visits. CHIP-CE domain scales unrelated to future use were risk avoidance, resilience, and achievement. Multivariable regression using CHIP-CE information collected from children explained more variation in total physician visits than models that used parent-respondent data. The treated morbidity index was a weaker predictor of physician visits than the CHIP-CE scale scores. None of the domain scales were significant predictors of any emergency department use or any specialist use; however, the treated morbidity index was associated with any specialist use.

Conclusions: A child's sense of well-being and burden of symptoms predict future use. Perceived healthcare needs, as assessed by the CHIP-CE, is a better predictor of children's service use than evaluated needs as assessed by physician-diagnosed disorders. Our results support the validity of using the responses of children aged 6 to 11 years as a measure of need for future health care.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Attitude to Health*
  • California / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys / standards*
  • Health Maintenance Organizations / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Least-Squares Analysis
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Managed Care Programs / statistics & numerical data
  • Morbidity
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Needs Assessment / standards*
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychology, Child*
  • Rhode Island / epidemiology
  • Risk-Taking
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / standards