Pediatrics has traditionally been defined by acute illnesses, but with the aid of public health measures, modern medications, vaccines, and product safety advances, acute illnesses are more preventable and treatable than ever. The major challenge for health care professionals who care for infants, children, and young adults and for those who will treat them as they age into adulthood has become the management of chronic diseases.
Chronic illnesses in children include a wide range of maladies. Some, such as obesity, malnutrition, and cardiovascular disease, begin in childhood and can continue into adulthood. Others, such as congenital heart disease, are very different from adult-onset disease and require different management. Illnesses such as sickle cell disease and certain cancers that manifest in childhood have had gradual advances in treatment, and these diseases and others, such as neonatal prematurity, present new challenges as children live longer. While all children require general pediatric care (attention to immunization, proper nutrition, development, etc), some problems, such as cancer, congenital heart disease, and autism, are treated primarily by subspecialists. Others, such as cerebral palsy, require the teamwork of multiple disciplines.