Facts & Figures:
Children with Special Health Care Needs

There are an estimated 179,000 children with special health care needs under age 18 in Minnesota (14.3%). More than one in five (22.5%) Minnesota households with children have at least one child with special health care needs.

Estimates of children with special health care needs are from the National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs, a CDC survey that screened over 7,000 children in Minnesota for special health care needs. The survey identifies children with special health care needs by asking parents five screening questions on the general health needs for each of their children ages 0-17. Children with a "yes" response to at least one screening question plus follow-up questions to determine whether the need is the result of a chronic health condition are considered children with special health care needs. The table below lists the five screening questions and the estimated percentage of children in Minnesota who met each question's criteria.

Identifying children with special health care needs in Minnesota
Screening criteria Percent of MN children
Use of prescription medications 11.0
The need for more medical, mental health, or education services than other children 6.5
Having a limitation in functional abilities 3.1
The need for special therapies 2.6
Emotional, developmental, or behavioral difficulties that require treatment or counseling 4.3
Note: National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs, 2009/2010

The prevalence of parent-reported children with special health care needs in Minnesota has increased from 12.4% in 2001 to 14.3% in 2009/2010 (increase not statistically significant). Nationally, the prevalence of children with special health care needs increased from 12.8% in 2001 to 15.1% in 2009/2010.

Prevalence of children with special health care needs over time

*National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs

The prevalence of special health care needs among children varies by sex and by age. Boys are significantly more likely to have a special health care need than are girls (16.8% versus 11.7% in Minnesota). The prevalence of children with special health care needs within the child population increases with age. In Minnesota, 7.8% of children age birth to 5 had a special health care need; 16% of children ages 6 to 11 had a special health care need; 19.3% of youth 12 to 17 had a special health care need.

Prevalence of children with special health care needs by sex

*National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs, 2009/2010.

As part of the National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs, parents with children ages 2-17 identified as having a special health care need were asked if a doctor or other health care provider ever told them that their child had a list of health conditions, and if they currently had the condition. More than half (58.2%) of the children and youth currently had one or two conditions; 27.5% had three or more conditions on the list. The table below lists the top health conditions included in the survey with the estimated percentage of children with special health care needs in Minnesota who currently have the condition.

Diagnoses among children with special health care needs
Condition Percent with current condition
Allergies (food allergies) 42.7 (9.3)
Asthma 34.4
Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) 29.8
Anxiety problems 19.3
Developmental delay affecting learning 14.0
Depression 12.6
Behavior/conduct problems 10.9
Migraines or frequent headaches 9.2
Autism, Asperger's, pervasive developmental disorder, or other autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) 9.3
Intellectual disability 3.1

Notes: Parent-reported diagnoses of Minnesota children ages 2-17 who currently have the condition. Health conditions with an estimated percentage below 3% include: diabetes, heart problems, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, head injury/traumatic brain injury, arthritis, Down syndrome, blood problems, cystic fibrosis, and muscular dystrophy. 
Source: National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs, 2009/2010.