AIM: To determine the cost of health and educational service provision for low birthweight children with a clinical disability. METHODS: Cohort study of a geographically defined population in five health districts that comprise the County of Merseyside was undertaken. All children with a clinical disability born in 1980 and 1981 to mothers resident in the County of Merseyside were followed up to age 8-9 years. The cost of care associated with the initial admission to the neonatal special/intensive care unit and subsequent use of hospital, family practitioner, and special education services was assessed. RESULTS: There were 52 children with a disability; the disability rate in children of birthweight < or = 2000 g was estimated at 7.7%. Of the total expenditure to age 8-9 years, special education was the largest category (52%) and neonatal care accounted for 35%. The disabled children accounted for 38% of the cost of the whole cohort of 693 disabled and non-disabled children who weighed < or = 2000 g at birth. CONCLUSION: In a cohort of low birthweight children, those who are disabled account for a disproportionate amount of the total expenditure to age 8-9. The cost of long term care for disabled young persons and adults will increasingly dominate the cost of care for the whole cohort of low birthweight children.
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