Racial and ethnic disparities impact care for children with frequent ear infections

November 1, 2010, American Academy of Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery

Racial and ethnic disparities among children with frequent ear infections (FEI) significantly influence access to affordable healthcare, according to new research published in the November 2010 issue of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery.

Ear infections are one of the most common health problems for children, with most kids experiencing at least one by their third birthday. Annual costs in the United States alone are in the billions of dollars.

Despite changes that have occurred in healthcare to help low-income children, such as the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), a large population of children still cannot afford prescription medication with black and Hispanic children more at risk

A new study by researchers at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and Harvard Medical School has found that racial and among children with frequent ear infections can significantly influence access to healthcare resources.

The findings show that compared with white children, African American and Hispanic children are at increased odds of not being able to afford prescription medications, not having medical insurance, and not being able to see a specialist. The study also shows that they are more likely than white children to visit the emergency room for an .

"Our goal was to provide an accurate demographic picture of the U.S. so that we could identify disparities to target for intervention," said study co-author Dr. Nina Shapiro, director of pediatric otolaryngology at Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA and an associate professor of surgery at the Geffen School of Medicine. "Clearly, we found that children of certain ethnicities who suffer from frequent ear infections are more likely to face greater barriers to care. This information provides an opportunity for improvements in our current healthcare reform."

Researchers used data from a 10-year period (1997-2006), taken from the National Health Interview Survey, a large-scale, household-based survey of a statistically representative sample of the U.S. population.

Parents of children under the age of 18 were asked various questions, including whether their child had three or more ear infections over the previous 12 months. For those who answered yes, researchers pulled demographic data — including age, sex, race/ethnicity, income level and insurance status — to determine the influence of these variables on frequent ear infections.

The study found that each year, 4.6 million children reportedly had "frequent" ear infections —defined as more than three infections over a 12-month period.

Overall, 3.7 percent of children with frequent ear infections could not afford care, 5.6 percent could not afford prescriptions, and only 25.8 percent saw a specialist.

Among the study's other findings for children with frequent ear infections:

  • A greater percentage of African American children (42.7 percent) and Hispanic children (34.5 percent) lived below the poverty level than white children (12 percent) and those of "other ethnicity" (28 percent).
  • A greater percentage of Hispanic children (18.2 percent) and "other ethnicity" children (16.6 percent) were uninsured, compared with whites (6.5 percent).
  • A greater percentage of white children (29.2 percent) reported having access to specialty care than African American children (20 percent), Hispanic children (17.5 percent) and "other ethnicity" children (18.9 percent).
  • A greater percentage of African American children (28.4 percent) and Hispanic children (19.8 percent) than white children (15.5 percent) visited the emergency room at least twice for ear infections over a 12-month period.
Researchers conducted the study by using the National Health Interview Survey (1997 - 2006) to identify children with FEI. Age, sex, race/ethnicity, income level, and insurance status were extracted. Access to care was measured by ability to afford medical care and prescription medications, specialist visitation, and emergency room visits.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Sweet, bitter, fat: New study reveals impact of genetics on how kids snack

February 22, 2018
Whether your child asks for crackers, cookies or veggies to snack on could be linked to genetics, according to new findings from the Guelph Family Health Study at the University of Guelph.

The good and bad health news about your exercise posts on social media

February 22, 2018
We all have that Facebook friend—or 10—who regularly posts photos of his or her fitness pursuits: on the elliptical at the gym, hiking through the wilderness, crossing a 10K finish line.

Smartphones are bad for some teens, not all

February 21, 2018
Is the next generation better or worse off because of smartphones? The answer is complex and research shows it largely depends on their lives offline.

Tackling health problems in the young is crucial for their children's future

February 21, 2018
A child's growth and development is affected by the health and lifestyles of their parents before pregnancy - even going back to adolescence - according to a new study by researchers at the Murdoch Children's Research Institute, ...

Lead and other toxic metals found in e-cigarette 'vapors': study

February 21, 2018
Significant amounts of toxic metals, including lead, leak from some e-cigarette heating coils and are present in the aerosols inhaled by users, according to a study from scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public ...

Why teens need up to 10 hours' sleep

February 21, 2018
Technology, other distractions and staying up late make is difficult, but researchers say teenagers need to make time for 8-10 hours of sleep a night to optimise their performance and maintain good health and wellbeing.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.