The Rise In Chronic Conditions Among Infants Children And Youth Can Be Met With Continued Health System Innovations
Author: James M. Perrin, L. Elizabeth Anderson, Jeanne Van Cleave
Since the early twentieth century, medical and public health innovations have led to dramatic changes in the epidemiology of health conditions among infants, children, and youth. Infectious diseases have substantially diminished, and survival rates for children with cancer, congenital heart disease, leukemia, and other conditions have greatly improved. However, over the past fifty years chronic health conditions and disabilities among children and youth have steadily risen, primarily from four classes of common conditions: asthma, obesity, mental health conditions, and neurodevelopmental disorders. In this article we describe the epidemiological shift among infants, children, and youth and examine sociodemographic and other factors contributing to it. We describe how health systems are responding by reorganizing and innovating. For children with rare complex conditions, concentrating subspecialty care at regional centers has been effective. For the much larger numbers of children with common chronic conditions, primary care providers have expanded diagnosis, treatment, and management options in promising ways.