Documenting the burden of pediatric arthritis

Apr 26, 2008

An estimated 294,000 US children younger than 18 years (or 1 in 250 children) have received a diagnosis of pediatric arthritis or another rheumatologic condition, according to a CDC study designed to gauge the prevalence and annual number of ambulatory health care visits for these disorders. Children with one of the diagnoses account for about 827,000 physician visits each year, including an average of 83,000 emergency department (ED) visits, the study showed. The authors concluded that arthritis-related health care visits impose a substantial burden on the pediatric health care system and that a surveillance paradigm will help monitor and predict young patients' health care needs.

 

 

 

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An estimated 294,000 US children younger than 18 years (or 1 in 250 children) have received a diagnosis of pediatric arthritis or another rheumatologic condition, according to a CDC study designed to gauge the prevalence and annual number of ambulatory health care visits for these disorders. Children with one of the diagnoses account for about 827,000 physician visits each year, including an average of 83,000 emergency department (ED) visits, the study showed. The authors concluded that arthritis-related health care visits impose a substantial burden on the pediatric health care system and that a surveillance paradigm will help monitor and predict young patients' health care needs.

 

The study authors used physician office, outpatient department, and ED visit data from the 2001-2004 National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey and 2001-2004 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey to estimate annual visits for the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification codes thought to represent significant pediatric arthritis and other rheumatologic conditions (SPARC). They noted that estimates have varied widely because "pediatric arthritis" is an umbrella term that has many definitions and because from a population surveillance perspective, the condition is somewhat uncommon. The authors suggested that this surveillance paradigm establishes a starting point for tracking the national prevalence of SPARC on an ongoing basis using existing infrastructure rather than expensive new surveys.

Public health surveillance-defined as the ongoing, systematic collection, analysis, and interpretation of data essential to the planning, implementation, and evaluation of public health practice-is one of the primary activities conducted by the CDC's Arthritis Program. Surveillance data are used to accomplish the following:
Document the magnitude of the arthritis problem to increase its visibility for the public and decision makers.

  • Monitor the burden of arthritis and track trends within various subgroups.

  • Place arthritis in perspective relative to various other health conditions.

  • Allow for comparison among states.

  • Identify high-risk populations to guide program efforts.

  • Identify disparities in the occurrence and impact of arthritis.

  • Track progress achieved toward meeting program objectives.

  • Provide information to persons who are interested in arthritis.

The Arthritis Program also recommends evidence-based programs to help improve the quality of life of persons who have arthritis. They include self-management education programs, physical activity programs, and health communications campaigns that promote physical activity.

For more information on the CDC's pediatric arthritis prevalence study and Arthritis Program components and objectives, visit the CDC Web site at www.cdc.gov/arthritis. Or, contact the organization at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Rd, Atlanta, GA 30333; telephone: (404) 498-1515 or (toll-free) (800) 311-3435.

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