Objective: To assess racial and ethnic differences in asthma prevalence, treatment patterns, and outcomes among a diverse population of children with equal access to health care.
Design: Retrospective cohort analysis.
Setting: The Military Health System.
Participants: A total of 822 900 children aged 2 through 17 years continuously enrolled throughout 2007 in TRICARE Prime, a health maintenance organization-type benefit provided by the Department of Defense.
Main outcome measures: Prevalence of diagnosed asthma, potentially avoidable asthma hospitalizations, asthma-related emergency department visits, visits to asthma specialists, and use of asthma medications among children aged 2 to 4, 5 to 10, and 11 to 17 years.
Results: Black and Hispanic children in all age groups were significantly more likely to have an asthma diagnosis than white children (ranging from odds ratio [OR]=1.16; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.09-1.24; to OR=2.00; 95% CI, 1.93-2.07). Black children in all age groups and Hispanic children aged 5 to 10 years were significantly more likely to have any potentially avoidable asthma hospitalizations and asthma-related emergency department visits (ranging from OR=1.24; 95% CI, 1.11-1.37; to OR=1.99; 95% CI, 1.37-2.88) and were significantly less likely to visit a specialist (ranging from OR=0.71; 95% CI, 0.61-0.82; to OR=0.88; 95% CI, 0.79-0.98) compared with white children. Black children in all age categories were significantly more likely to have filled any prescriptions for inhaled corticosteroids compared with white children (ranging from OR=1.11; 95% CI, 1.02-1.21; to OR=1.11; 95% CI, 1.04-1.19).
Conclusions: Despite universal health insurance coverage, we found evidence of racial and ethnic differences in asthma prevalence, treatment, and outcomes.