Minority Children Experience Disparities in Health Care

There is a lack of equity in health care for minority children in America, according to data gathered in a nationwide survey and analyzed by a University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center researcher.

Children in all five minority groups were less likely than whites to have visited a physician
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The UT Southwestern analysis, available online and published as an abstract in the journal Pediatrics, suggested certain disparities are particularly pronounced for specific racial and ethnic groups. Awareness of these disparities may be useful for clinicians, health systems and policymakers to address the needs of diverse populations, said Glenn Flores, MD, FAAP, professor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern and lead author of the study.

Results were drawn from the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH). Conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, the NSCH was a national telephone survey of 102,353 interviews completed between January 2003 and July 2004.

In the study, children’s race/ethnicity was classified as white, Latino, African-American, Asian/Pacific Islander, Native American or multiracial.

Flores, who also serves as director of the division of general pediatrics at Children’s Medical Center Dallas, said children in all five minority groups were significantly less likely than whites to have visited a physician or been given a medical prescription in the past year. Additionally, Latino and Native American children were more likely to be uninsured than African-American, multiracial, white and Asian/Pacific Islander children.

Many disparities between whites and minorities were observed, including:

  • Asthma was significantly more prevalent among African-American, Native American and multiracial children.
  • Native American children had a higher prevalence of hearing and vision problems and diabetes.
  • Behavior problems were especially prevalent in African-American and multiracial children.
  • Digestive allergies were significantly more likely in multiracial children; skin allergies were more frequent in African-American children.
  • Multiracial, Native American and African-American children also had higher odds of not receiving needed dental care.

“A main strength of this study was that analyses were performed for all five of the major U.S. racial and ethnic groups,” Flores said. “Reduction and elimination of health-care disparities in children may require more comprehensive data collection, analyses and monitoring of disparities, as well as improvements in access to care, reducing unmet needs and targeted community-based interventions.”

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