OBJECTIVE. This study provides population-based estimates of recent medical conditions, concurrent developmental disorders, and health impact and utilization indicators for US children with and without Down syndrome.
METHODS. The sample included children 3 to 17 years of age in the 1997–2005 National Health Interview Survey Child Sample Core and specifically included 146 children with Down syndrome, 604 children with mental retardation but without Down syndrome, and 95 454 children without either condition reported. Developmental and medical conditions, health status, and service use were reported by parents or other knowledgeable caregivers.
RESULTS. After adjustment for demographic factors, children with Down syndrome had higher odds, compared with children without mental retardation, of recent food/digestive allergy, frequent diarrhea/colitis, ≥3 ear infections in the previous year, very recent head/chest cold, and developmental disabilities other than mental retardation. They had increased odds that approached significance for recent seizures, very recent stomach/intestinal illness, and asthma. They had substantially higher rates (threefold or higher, compared with children without mental retardation) for nearly all health impact and health and special education service use measures. Of note, >25% of children with Down syndrome needed help with personal care, regularly took prescription medications, had recently seen a medical specialist, and received physical therapy or related therapy. The comparison group with mental retardation without Down syndrome represented many children with multiple serious disabilities who also had high rates of medical conditions and high levels of health impact and service use.
CONCLUSION. These findings provide empirical, population-based data to inform guidelines for frequent monitoring and support for children with Down syndrome.