Definition of CYSHCN:

Children with special health care needs are those children who have or are at risk for chronic physical, developmental, behavioral or emotional conditions and who also require health and related services of a type or amount beyond that required by children generally. According to the 2011/12 National Survey of Children's Health approximately 14.6 million children ages 0–17 years in the United States (19.8%) have special health care needs.*

Two girls at christmas celebrationThis definition was developed by the Maternal and Children Health Bureau, Division of Services for Children with Special Health Care Needs in collaboration with many experts in child health including parents, and has become widely accepted. This definition includes children with a broad range of conditions or chronic illnesses such as cerebral palsy, developmental delay, ADHD, depression, asthma, sickle cell anemia or cystic fibrosis.  Health problems of CYSHCN are those that are expected to last at least twelve months. The Maternal and Child Health Bureau definition helps to identify children based on the impact of their special health need and their need for health and related services, rather than only on their diagnosis. Many CYSHCN have more than one special health need.

Children with special needs above all deserve a health, happy childhood and a chance to grow up to be productive adults. Like all children, they live with their families in towns, cities and rural areas of the United States , going to school, attending worship services, enjoying community events. However, unlike most children, they also have challenging health conditions that usually make their lives and their families’ lives more complicated. Any child, at any time, could develop a disability or chronic health condition.

To learn more about CYSHCN, visit our webpage, CYSHCN: Demographics, or visit the National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs: Data Resource Center.

*Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative (2013). “Who Are Children with Special Health Care Needs (CSHCN).” Data Resource Center, supported by Cooperative Agreement 1-U59-MC06980-01 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB). Available at Revised 4/15/13.


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