Objective: This technical report reviews and synthesizes the published literature on racial/ethnic disparities in children's health and health care.
Methods: A systematic review of the literature was conducted for articles published between 1950 and March 2007. Inclusion criteria were peer-reviewed, original research articles in English on racial/ethnic disparities in the health and health care of US children. Search terms used included “child,” “disparities,” and the Index Medicus terms for each racial/ethnic minority group.
Results: Of 781 articles initially reviewed, 111 met inclusion criteria and constituted the final database. Review of the literature revealed that racial/ethnic disparities in children's health and health care are quite extensive, pervasive, and persistent. Disparities were noted across the spectrum of health and health care, including in mortality rates, access to care and use of services, prevention and population health, health status, adolescent health, chronic diseases, special health care needs, quality of care, and organ transplantation. Mortality-rate disparities were noted for children in all 4 major US racial/ethnic minority groups, including substantially greater risks than white children of all-cause mortality; death from drowning, from acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and after congenital heart defect surgery; and an earlier median age at death for those with Down syndrome and congenital heart defects. Certain methodologic flaws were commonly observed among excluded studies, including failure to evaluate children separately from adults (22%), combining all nonwhite children into 1 group (9%), and failure to provide a white comparison group (8%). Among studies in the final database, 22% did not perform multivariable or stratified analyses to ensure that disparities persisted after adjustment for potential confounders.
Conclusions: Racial/ethnic disparities in children's health and health care are extensive, pervasive, and persistent, and occur across the spectrum of health and health care. Methodologic flaws were identified in how such disparities are sometimes documented and analyzed. Optimal health and health care for all children will require recognition of disparities as pervasive problems, methodologically sound disparities studies, and rigorous evaluation of disparities interventions.
- health care disparities
- ethnic groups
- Hispanic Americans
- African Americans
- Asian Americans
- North American
- Copyright © 2010 by the American Academy of Pediatrics