There are many scientific studies on issues related to medication use
among children with chronic illness and the role of their caregivers.
Below is selected information that has been summarized from the scientific
literature. References are given for those interested in learning more
about the research.
Children with Chronic Illness and
More than half a million children and youth are living with long-term
physical or mental health problems in Canada. Asthma accounts for a large
portion of chronic illness among Canadian children.1
Nearly 7.7% of children and youth are limited in what they can do by a
The rates are considerably
higher among Aboriginal children and youth: 22% of Aboriginal youth have
Some need complex care;
43% of children with disabilities have conditions considered severe or
Among children with disabilities or chronic illness, 41.5% use prescription
medicine daily. Medication is taken at least once a week by 10 to 14-year-olds,
and regularly by 5 to 9-year-olds.5
Medication Use Issues
Poor compliance with long-term therapy is a worldwide problem, according
to the World Health Organization (WHO).1
The results are poor health and increased health care costs.2
One in five Canadians used prescription medicine such as pain pills,
sleeping pills, antidepressants and diet pills in the 1990s. People use
more prescription drugs as they age.3
More recently, medication use has risen as hospital stays have decreased.4,5
That means more Canadians than ever before who are seriously ill are
using medications outside of controlled hospital settings, especially
frail seniors and children with chronic illness.
Of necessity, family members (or friends and neighbours) – mostly
women – are the main care providers. Access to home care support
varies across the country and from community to community. The incidence
of hospital admissions and readmissions due to preventable drug-related
problems is substantial.6
There is a variety of professionals who provide support services, including
home support workers, registered nurses, physical therapists, social workers,
case managers and community pharmacists.7
Apart from family physicians, these community care providers are often
the only source of information for caregivers.
Yet fewer than 10% of such “formal” caregivers have any training
in working with “informal” caregivers. This is despite the
fact that 76% of caregivers want more information, advice or training
on caregiving and community resources.8
Synthesis Report (literature review)
An April 2006 review of research literature produced by the Safe Use
Project examined issues affecting children with chronic illness, including
Aboriginal children. It looked at what information is available about
how they take their medication. The resulting Synthesis Report addresses
- Do children with chronic illness take their medicine properly?
- What are the rates of drug-related morbidity and mortality for children
with chronic illness?
- What factors affect whether children with chronic illness take their
- What strategies are there to get children with chronic illness to take
their medicine properly?
- What gaps are there in what is known about these topics?
Assessing Parent Caregivers' Need
for Educational Resources
The needs assessment will focus on the resources available to caregivers
of children with chronic illness, to determine their information, education
and support requirements regarding safe medicine use. Such information
can guide the development of tools and resources in the future.
This component of the Project is currently under way and will be completed
in the Spring of 2007. Please check back for further details about this