Objectives/hypothesis: To evaluate current racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in the prevalence of frequent ear infections (FEI) among children in the United States.
Study design: Cross-sectional study.
Methods: The National Health Interview Survey (years 1997 to 2006) was utilized to evaluate children who were reported by their parent/guardian to have "3 or more ear infections during the past 12 months." Demographic variables evaluated included age, sex, race/ethnicity, income level, and insurance status. Multivariate analyses determined the influence of demographic variables on the prevalence of FEI in children.
Results: Among an annualized population of 72.6 million children (average age, 8.55 +/- 0.19 years), 4.65 +/- 0.07 million children (6.6 +/- 0.1%) reported FEI. FEI was more commonly reported in white (7.0 +/- 0.1%) and Hispanic (6.2 +/- 0.2%) than in black (5.0 +/- 0.2%) and other race/ethnic groups (4.5 +/- 0.3%, P < .001). A larger portion of children in households below the poverty level reported FEI (8.0 +/- 0.3%, P < .001). Of children with no health insurance 5.4 +/- 0.3% had FEI. On multivariate analysis, black, Hispanic and other race/ethnic group had decreased odds ratio for FEI relative to white children (odds ratios: 0.63, 0.76, and 0.60, respectively, all P < .001). Income below poverty level also predicted FEI (odds ratio, 1.322, P < .001), whereas lack of insurance coverage did not (P = .181).
Conclusions: Despite increasing awareness, there are still notable racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities among children with FEI. Further efforts to eliminate these disparities and improve the care of children with FEI are needed.