Systematic review finds much higher rates of chronic health conditions in children with learning disabilities than in general population

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This systematic review of prevalence rates of chronic health conditions in children with intellectual disability found 2,994 relevant studies published between 1996 to 2008. 31 studies were included that the authors felt had sufficient methodological quality.

They found that the 6 most prevalent chronic health conditions were:

  • Epilepsy (22.0/100),
  • Cerebral palsy (19.8/100),
  • Anxiety disorder (17.1/100),
  • Oppositional defiant disorder (12.4/100),
  • Down syndrome (11.0/100),
  • Autistic disorder (10.1/100).

Not surprisingly, reported prevalence rates of chronic health conditions in children with intellectual disability were much higher than in the general population.

The authors add a note of caution however, as only a small number of studies were included in the review because of methodological problems in  the primary sources and the number of chronic health conditions they reported on were limited.

Prevalence of Chronic Health Conditions in Children With Intellectual Disability: A Systematic Literature Review , Oeseburg B et al, in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 49, 2, 59-85.

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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