Annual report on health care for children and youth in the United States: racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in children's health care quality

Acad Pediatr. Mar-Apr 2010;10(2):95-118. doi: 10.1016/j.acap.2009.12.005.


Objective: The aim of this study was to explore the joint effect of race/ethnicity and insurance status/expected payer or income on children's health care quality.

Methods: The analyses are based on data from a nationally representative random sample of children in the United States in 2004 and 2005 from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) and pediatric hospitalizations from a nationwide sample of hospitals in 2005 from the State Inpatient Databases disparities analysis file from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP). We provide estimates of differences in race/ethnicity within income and insurance/expected payer categories on key pediatric quality indicators to provide a more nuanced understanding of disparities in care for children. Our indicators of quality cover several domains from the Institute of Medicine report, including effectiveness, patient centeredness, timeliness, and patient safety.

Results: Across a broad set of 23 quality indicators, findings indicate that racial/ethnic disparities vary by income levels and types of insurance. Key highlights include the finding that racial/ethnic differences within income or insurance/payer groups are more pronounced for some racial/ethnic groups than others. Hispanic children followed by Asian children had worse quality than whites as measured by the majority of quality indicators. Exceptions included rates of admissions for diabetes, admissions for gastroenteritis, accidental puncture during procedures, and decubitus ulcers. Many indicators showed less than ideal quality for all subgroups of children, even whites with private insurance.

Conclusions: The extensive findings in this report make clear that patterns of racial/ethnic disparity vary by income and insurance/expected payer subgroup. However, disparities in quality are not similar across all measures of quality, and strategies to address these disparities need to be designed with these nuances in mind.

MeSH terms

  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Annual Reports as Topic
  • Child
  • Child Health Services / standards*
  • Child Welfare*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Ethnic Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Promotion
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Hispanic Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Insurance Coverage*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / standards
  • Quality of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Quality of Health Care / trends
  • United States