Objectives: Hospitalization for ambulatory care sensitive conditions, also called preventable hospitalization, has been widely accepted as an indicator of access to primary health care, and of the overall success of the primary health care system. Our objective is to examine associations between preventable hospitalization and race and ethnicity in the USA, separately for six major chronic diseases: angina, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, diabetes and hypertension.
Design: We used the 1997 Nationwide Inpatient Sample, 1997 Current Population Survey and 1997 National Health Interview Survey, to calculate rates of preventable hospitalization, and the prevalence of ambulatory care sensitive conditions, for African Americans, Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites. Rates were calculated for ages 19-64, and 65 and over. Preventable hospitalization rates that accounted for underlying hospitalization patterns were also estimated. A final set of estimations adjusted the preventable hospitalization rates for disease prevalence.
Results: Preventable hospitalization rates were notably higher for African Americans and Hispanics than for non-Hispanic whites for almost all of the conditions, both for women and men and for both age groups. Rates adjusted for underlying hospitalization patterns showed a similar pattern. Adjusted for disease prevalence, rate differences remained notably large for both women and men, and for both age groups. Particularly great, for both African Americans and Hispanics of both sexes, are the risks of preventable hospitalization for asthma, diabetes and hypertension.
Conclusion: African Americans and Hispanics have high preventable hospitalization rates for major chronic conditions, even after disease prevalence and underlying hospital utilization patterns are considered. These rates are particularly high for asthma, diabetes and hypertension, which are amenable to prevention and management interventions. Our results suggest a need to improve access to quality primary health care for African Americans and Hispanics in the USA, and for enhanced support of targeted prevention efforts.