Unmet need and problems accessing specialty medical and related services among children with special health care needs

Matern Child Health J. 2006 Mar;10(2):201-16. doi: 10.1007/s10995-005-0041-3. Epub 2005 Dec 29.


Objectives: To extend what is known about parent reports of their child's need for specialty medical and related services, unmet need, and specific types of access problems among children with special health care needs (CSHCN).

Methods: Using data from a 1998-1999 20-state survey of families of CSHCN, we examined differences in parent report of need for services by child characteristics, investigated parent report of unmet need and access problems by service area and number of services needed, and estimated the likelihood of four access problems and unmet need by child, family, and health insurance characteristics.

Results: Overall, the sample children had numerous service needs, although the prevalence of need varied by service type and child characteristics. Reports of unmet need were greater for older children and for children with multiple service needs, unstable health care needs or a behavioral health condition, parents who were in poor health or had more than a high school education, and families whose insurance coverage was inconsistent or lacked a secondary plan. Reports of access problems were greatest for mental health and home health services. The two most prevalent access problems were finding a skilled provider and getting enough visits.

Conclusions: The results underscore the importance of finding new ways to link children with behavioral health problems to mental health services, implementing coordinated care and the other core dimensions of the medical home concept, increasing the number of specialty pediatricians and home health providers, and expanding coverage for a wider range of mental health services.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Child Health Services / standards
  • Child Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child Health Services / supply & distribution*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disabled Children*
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Home Care Services / standards
  • Home Care Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Home Care Services / supply & distribution
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Insurance, Health
  • Medical Assistance
  • Mental Health Services / standards
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Mental Health Services / supply & distribution
  • Needs Assessment*
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States