Objectives: This study used a Cox proportional hazards model to determine whether neighborhood characteristics are associated with risk of readmission for childhood asthma independently of individual characteristics.
Methods: Rhode Island Hospital Discharge Data from 2001 to 2005 were used to identify children younger than 19 years of age at the time of the index (i.e., first) asthma admission, defined as a primary diagnosis of asthma or a primary diagnosis of respiratory illness with a secondary or tertiary diagnosis of asthma (n=2,919). Hazard ratios of repeat hospitalizations for childhood asthma from 2001 to 2005 were estimated, controlling for individual- and neighborhood-level variables.
Results: During the study period, 15% of the sample was readmitted for asthma (n=451). In the unadjusted cumulative hazard curves, children residing in the census tracts with the highest proportion of crowded housing conditions, racial minority residents, or neighborhood-level poverty had higher cumulative hospital readmission rates as compared with children who resided in less disadvantaged neighborhoods. In the fully adjusted models, children insured by Medicaid at the time of their index admission had readmission rates that were 33% higher than children who were privately insured.
Conclusion: Our findings suggest that differences in health-care coverage are associated with higher readmission rates for pediatric asthma, but the relationship between neighborhood inequality and repeat hospitalizations for pediatric asthma requires further exploration. Social indicators such as minority race, Medicaid health insurance, and neighborhood markers of economic disadvantage are tightly interwoven in the U.S. and teasing these relationships apart is important in asthma disparities research.