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Children's Health

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Few adolescents with special health care needs receive adequate transition from pediatric to adult-oriented health care

Approximately one in five adolescents in the United States has special health care needs (SHCN). Each year, 750,000 of these adolescents become adults and need to transition to adult-oriented health care. However, few adolescents with SHCN receive adequate transition services when moving into adult-oriented health care, according to a study supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS15511).

Promoting high-quality parent-physician interactions may be one means to improve the delivery of health care transition services, suggest University of Minnesota Medical School researchers Peter Scal, M.D., M.P.H., and Marjorie Ireland, Ph.D. They analyzed data for 4,332 adolescents (aged 14 to 17 years) from the 2000-2001 National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs. They examined parent reports to gauge the adequacy of transition services.

Overall, 50 percent of parents said that they had discussed transition issues with their adolescent's doctor. Only 30 percent had developed a plan for addressing those needs, and 30 percent had discussed seeing a doctor who treats adults. However, only 16 percent of parents had discussed and developed a plan with their providers for addressing the adolescent's changing health care needs. Adolescents with SHCN who were older, were female, had more complicated needs, and had a high-quality relationship with their doctors were more likely to receive adequate health care transition.

More details are in "Addressing transition to adult health care for adolescents with special health care needs," by Drs. Scal and Ireland, in the June 2005 Pediatrics 115(6), pp. 1607-1612.

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