Objective: To apply a multiattribute health status (MAHS) classification system to data available on two cohorts of school-aged children to describe several dimensions of health simultaneously. The MAHS system describes both the type and severity of functional limitations according to seven attributes: sensation, mobility, emotion, cognition, self-care, pain, and fertility (fertility not applicable in this study), with four or five levels of function within each attribute.
Design: The MAHS system was applied retrospectively to clinical and psychometric data collected prospectively at age 8 years. MAHS application was by selection of items from the database and development of computer-assisted algorithms to assign functional levels within each attribute.
Setting: Geographically defined region in central-west Ontario, Canada.
Participants: One hundred fifty-six extremely low birth weight (ELBW) survivors born between 1977 and 1982 (follow-up rate 90%) and 145 reference children matched for age, sex, and socioeconomic status.
Results: 14% of ELBW subjects had no functional limitations, 58% had reduced function for one or two attributes, and 28% had at least three affected. The corresponding figures for the reference group were 50%, 48%, and 2% (p < 0.0001). The limitations were more severe and complex in the ELBW group, and were notably in cognition (58%), sensation (48%), mobility (21%), and self-care (17%), compared with 28%, 11%, 1%, and 0% for reference children (all p < 0.0001).
Conclusions: These data indicate that fewer ELBW than reference children were free of functional limitations and a significantly higher proportion had multiple attributes affected. The MAHS classification approach is a useful instrument to compare the health status of different groups and populations, and to monitor changes with time.