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Family Impact of Child With Life-Threatening Illness Examined

Family members of children with a serious pediatric illness have higher rates of health care encounters, diagnoses, prescriptions

MONDAY, Dec. 20, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers of children with one of four life-threatening conditions (LTCs) have higher rates of health care encounters, diagnoses, and medication prescriptions compared with family members of control children, according to a study published online Dec. 20 in JAMA Network Open.

Chris Feudtner, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and colleagues conducted a retrospective cohort study involving U.S. families of children with one of four LTCs (substantial prematurity, critical congenital heart disease, cancer, or a condition resulting in severe neurologic impairment) to examine the rates of health care encounters, diagnoses, and prescriptions compared to families of children without these conditions. Each case child and their family was matched with up to four control children and their families. Data were included for 6,909 case children and 18,619 control children; 11,586 case parents and 31,771 control parents; and 7,664 case siblings and 18,042 control siblings.

The researchers found that compared with control mothers, case mothers had higher rates of the composite outcome of health care encounters, diagnoses, and prescriptions (incident rate ratio [IRR], 1.61), as did case versus control fathers (IRR, 1.55). Sisters and brothers of case children had higher rates of the composite outcome compared with sisters and brothers of control children (IRRs, 1.68 and 1.70, respectively).

“Although more research is warranted to better understand the mechanisms underlying these findings, interventions for parents and siblings of children with LTCs that aim to safeguard their mental and physical well-being appear to be warranted.,” the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the Cigna Foundation, which funded the study.

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