Trends in asthma-related admissions among American Indian and Alaskan native children from 1979 to 1989. Universal health care in the face of poverty

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1994 Apr;148(4):357-63. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.1994.02170040023004.


Objective: To describe changes in asthma-related hospitalizations in Indian Health Service facilities and compare with national trends.

Design: Trend analysis.

Patients and setting: Hospital discharge records of patients aged 17 years and younger treated by the Indian Health Service between 1979 and 1989.

Main outcome measures: Patients discharged with asthma as the first listed diagnosis.

Results: The rates of asthma-related hospitalizations increased an average of 2.6% (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.1 to 5.2) per year between 1979 and 1989 among American Indian and Alaskan Native children aged 0 to 17 years. The increase was 3.7% among the 0- to 4-year age group (95% CI, 2.0 to 5.5) and 0.3% (95% CI, 0.26 to 0.3) among the 5- to 17-year age group. Boys tended to have a higher rate of increase (4.3% [95% CI, -0.1 to 8.7]) compared with girls (2.6% [95% CI, -0.2 to 5.4]). The rates for any hospitalization decreased during this period for 0- to 4-year-olds (-7.5% [95% CI, -10.5 to -4.5]). Little change was noted in hospitalization rates for lower respiratory tract diseases. Diagnostic transfer from bronchitis/bronchiolitis to asthma could not explain the increase. Both first admission and readmission for treatment of asthma contributed to the increase. Compared with previously published data, 0- to 4-year-old American Indian and Alaskan Native children more closely approximate white children than black children in both rates of hospitalization (1979-1987) and annual percentage increase in hospitalization (1979-1989 for American Indian and Alaskan Native children and 1979-1987 for white and black children) for the treatment of asthma.

Conclusions: American Indian and Alaskan Native children who are cared for by the Indian Health Service have asthma-related hospitalization patterns that are similar to those seen in white children despite having socioeconomic characteristics more similar to those of black children.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Alaska
  • Asthma / therapy*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / trends*
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American*
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Inuits*
  • Male
  • Patient Readmission / trends
  • Poverty*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / therapy
  • Sex Factors
  • United States
  • United States Indian Health Service / statistics & numerical data*