Objectives: Neighborhood environments have been linked to the prevalence and incidence rates of a variety of diseases and injuries. This study assessed the relations between neighborhood demographic and socioeconomic characteristics and emergency department (ED) utilization.
Methods: Billing data for the calendar year 2000 for adult patients residing within a one-mile radius of the study ED were geo-coded based on home addresses and merged with neighborhood data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Annual ED visit rates per 100 population were computed for each census block within the study area and analyzed in relation to neighborhood characteristics.
Results: The study area consisted of 714 census blocks and 42,278 adult residents, with a total of 16,427 visits to the study ED. Annual ED visit rates increased from 17 visits per 100 population for neighborhoods where less than 50% of the population were African American to 51 visits per 100 population for neighborhoods where all residents were African American (p < 0.001). Annual ED visit rates decreased from 53% for neighborhoods where <20% of housing units were owner-occupied to 27% for neighborhoods with >45% owner-occupied housing units (p < 0.001). Multivariate linear regression modeling revealed that proportions of African American residents and owner-occupied housing units were significantly associated with ED utilization, independent of age and gender compositions and the distance between residence and the study ED.
Conclusions: Even within a small geographic area, ED utilization may vary greatly by neighborhood characteristics. Neighborhood racial composition and housing tenure are independent predictors of ED visit rates in this urban community.