The World Health Organization (WHO) defines palliative care as an approach to care that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual.

Palliative care for children represents a special field of palliative care. WHO’s definition of palliative care that is appropriate for children and their families is:

  • Palliative care for children is the active total care of the child's body, mind and spirit, and also involves giving support to the family.
  • It begins when illness is diagnosed, and continues regardless of whether or not a child receives treatment directed at the disease.
  • Health providers must evaluate and alleviate a child's physical, psychological, and social distress.
  • Effective palliative care requires a broad multidisciplinary approach that includes the family and makes use of available community resources; it can be successfully implemented even if resources are limited.
  • It can be provided in tertiary care facilities, in community health centers and even in children's homes.

At Cincinnati Children’s, palliative care is provided by two teams who work together to care for families, no matter where they are located. The Pediatric Palliative and Comfort Care Team (PACT) is a team of doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and social workers who see patients in the hospital and in clinics. StarShine Hospice and Palliative Care is a team of nurses, social workers, child life specialists, music therapists, holistic health therapists, and the PACT doctors who care for children and their families at home.