Background and objectives: Understanding disparities in child health-related quality of life (HRQoL) may reveal opportunities for targeted improvement. This study examined associations between social disadvantage, access to care, and child physical functioning before and after hospitalization for acute respiratory illness.
Methods: From July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2016, children ages 8-16 years and/or caregivers of children 2 weeks to 16 years admitted to five tertiary care children's hospitals for three common respiratory illnesses completed a survey on admission and within 2 to 8 weeks after discharge. Survey items assessed social disadvantage (minority race/ ethnicity, limited English proficiency, low education, and low income), difficulty/delays accessing care, and baseline and follow-up HRQoL physical functioning using the Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory (PedsQL, range 0-100). We examined associations between these three variables at baseline and follow-up using multivariable, mixed-effects linear regression models with multiple imputation sensitivity analyses for missing data.
Results: A total of 1,325 patients and/or their caregivers completed both PedsQL assessments. Adjusted mean baseline PedsQL scores were significantly lower for patients with social disadvantage markers, compared with those of patients with none (78.7 for >3 markers versus 85.5 for no markers, difference -6.1 points (95% CI: -8.7, -3.5). The number of social disadvantage markers was not associated with mean follow-up PedsQL scores. Difficulty/delays accessing care were associated with lower PedsQL scores at both time points, but it was not a significant effect modifier between social disadvantage and PedsQL scores.
Conclusions: Having social disadvantage markers or difficulty/delays accessing care was associated with lower baseline physical functioning; however, differences were reduced after hospital discharge.