Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Early Childhood Health and Health Care

Racial/ethnic disparities in health care have received much national attention recently, but few studies have focused on disparities among children. We studied disparities in early childhood health and health care. This study analyzed data for 2,608 children, 4 to 35 months of age, from the 2000 National Survey of Early Childhood Health, a nationwide household survey. The overall response rate was 65.6 percent. Survey questions addressed health, health care, and interactions with health care providers. Hispanic and African-American children were significantly less likely than whites to be in excellent/very good health (72 percent, 79 percent, and 90 percent, respectively) and were more likely to be uninsured (31 percent, 18 percent, and 9 percent, respectively). Only 60 percent of Hispanic and 77 percent of African-American parents would recommend their child's provider to others, compared with 84 percent of white parents. Minority parents more often reported that providers never or only sometimes understood their child-rearing preferences, and Hispanic parents most often reported that providers never or only sometimes understood their child's needs. Minority parents more often were asked about violence, smoking, drinking, and drug use. Hispanic and African-American parents averaged significantly fewer telephone calls to doctors' offices than did whites (2.0, 3.1, and 4.3 calls, respectively). Providers significantly less often referred Hispanic and African-American children to specialists (11 percent and 17 percent, respectively, compared with 22 percent for whites). Most disparities persisted in multivariate analyses, and several disparities were found between children with parents who completed surveys in Spanish and those with parents who completed surveys in English. The study concluded that young minority children experience multiple disparities in health status, insurance coverage, topics discussed during pediatric visits, parents feeling understood by providers, parental satisfaction, and referrals to specialists.

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