The percentage of children with chronic health conditions is on the rise, and new research being presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies 2016 Meeting shows this is especially true among children who live in or near poverty.

Researchers examined data from the National Survey of Children’s Health data for 2003, 2007, 2011, and 2012 to spot trends surrounding these conditions by sociodemographic characteristics in the United States. 

The study noted more significant increases in asthma and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) among children living in poverty, as compared to their wealthier counterparts. 

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Poor children with these conditions also were more likely to have two or more additional diseases. Those living in extreme poverty who had asthma and ADHD, for example, were roughly twice as likely to have at least one other chronic medical condition. 

Some of the more common co-existing conditions included developmental delays, autism, depression or anxiety, behavioral or conduct issues, speech and language problems, epilepsy/seizure disorders and learning disabilities. Among children who had public health insurance, significant increases were seen among all the chronic diseases studied. 

Lead author Christian D. Pulcini, MD, MEd, MPH, said the findings highlight the importance of studying poverty and its impact on children’s health. 

“Especially with the recent release of the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines suggesting poverty screening as an essential component at every child health visit, we need to be aware that poor children already at greater risk for common childhood illnesses such as asthma, ADHD, and autism often face even more medical conditions on top of these.” 


1. Pulcini CD, Zima B, Kelleher K, et al. National Trends in Prevalence and Comorbid Chronic Conditions among Children with Asthma, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Presented at: Pediatric Academic Societies. April 30-May 3, 2016. Baltimore.