Nearly one-fourth of parents of children with special health care needs have cut back on or quit work to care for them

Research Activities, June 2010, No. 358

Parents of children with special health care needs (CSHCN) often have to take time off work, reduce their number of work hours, or even quit a job altogether to care for their sick child. In fact, nearly a quarter of parents with CSHCN have experienced work loss in order to meet the medical needs of their child, reveals a new study. Megumi J. Okumura, M.D., of the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues analyzed data from a national survey of these children. Two questions on the survey asked parents if they had ever stopped working or had to cut back on their hours as a result of their children's health. In addition to various demographic data, the researchers also looked at the functional limitations and condition stability of the child.

More than half of the CSHCN had some or a great deal of functional limitations due to their condition. Just over a third (35 percent) had changing health care needs. Almost all of the CSHCN (96.5 percent) were insured. Nearly a quarter of parents (23.7 percent) reported some type of work loss, with 13.3 percent of families reporting that a member had to stop work to care for their child. Factors associated with increased odds of work loss included having a younger CSHCN, increasing functional limitation and/or condition instability, being uninsured, and having public insurance. Work loss odds were lower for families with post-high school education and those with a medical home. A medical home can save a family time and frustration by coordinating medical appointments and referrals, streamlining communication between primary care doctors and other providers, and reducing duplicative services. In this way, a medical home has the potential to optimize work productivity for families, note the researchers. Their study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS17716).

See "Understanding factors associated with work loss for families caring for CSHCN," by Dr. Okumura, Jeanne Van Cleave, M.D., Sangeeth Gnanasekaran, M.D., M.P.H., and Amy Houtrow, M.D., M.P.H., in the December 2009 Pediatrics 124(Suppl. 4), pp. S392-S398.

Current as of June 2010
Internet Citation: Nearly one-fourth of parents of children with special health care needs have cut back on or quit work to care for them: Research Activities, June 2010, No. 358. June 2010. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://archive.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/jun10/0610RA2.html