Poverty and childhood chronic illness

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1994 Nov;148(11):1143-9. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.1994.02170110029005.


Objective: To present national estimates of the prevalence and impact of chronic conditions for children from poor and nonpoor families by using data from the 1988 National Health Interview Survey.

Methods: Proxy responses to a checklist of child health conditions administered for 17,110 children younger than 18 years were used. Conditions were classified as chronic if they were first noticed more than 3 months before the interview or if they were the type that would ordinarily be of extended duration, such as arthritis.

Results: While nonpoor families were more likely than poor families to report chronic conditions for their children, children from poor families exhibited a higher risk of experiencing severe chronic conditions. Children with chronic conditions from poor families also experienced substantial barriers to care; they were 118% more likely to be uninsured than were children from nonpoor families and 42% more likely to lack a usual source of care. Children with chronic conditions from poor families were found to use fewer ambulatory care services but more inpatient hospital care than their nonpoor counterparts.

Conclusion: Children from poor families experience chronic health problems that are inadequately addressed by our existing health care system.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child Welfare / economics*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chronic Disease / economics*
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology
  • Health Services / economics
  • Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Services Accessibility / economics*
  • Health Status
  • Health Surveys
  • Hospitalization / economics
  • Humans
  • Income / statistics & numerical data
  • Infant
  • Insurance, Health
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prevalence
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • United States / epidemiology