Racial/ethnic variation in asthma status and management practices among children in managed medicaid

Tracy A Lieu, Paula Lozano, Jonathan A Finkelstein, Felicia W Chi, Nancy G Jensvold, Angela M Capra, Charles P Quesenberry, Joe V Selby, Harold J Farber
Pediatrics 2002, 109 (5): 857-65

OBJECTIVE: Racial/ethnic disparities in hospitalization rates among children with asthma have been documented but are not well-understood. Medicaid programs, which serve many minority children, have markedly increased their use of managed care in recent years. It is unknown whether racial/ethnic disparities in health care use or other processes of care exist in managed Medicaid populations. This study of Medicaid-insured children with asthma in 5 managed care organizations aimed to 1) compare parent-reported health status and asthma care processes among black, Latino, and white children and 2) test the hypothesis that racial/ethnic variations in processes of asthma care exist after adjusting for socioeconomic status and asthma status.

METHODS: This cross-sectional study collected data via telephone interviews with parents and computerized records for Medicaid-insured children with asthma in 5 managed care organizations in California, Washington, and Massachusetts. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Children's Health Survey for Asthma was used to measure parent-reported asthma status. We used multivariate models to evaluate associations between race/ethnicity and asthma status while controlling for other sociodemographic variables. We evaluated racial/ethnic variations in selected processes of asthma care while controlling for other demographic variables and asthma status.

RESULTS: The response rate was 63%. Of the 1658 children in the respondent group, 38% were black, 19% were Latino, and 31% were white. Black children had worse asthma status than white children on the basis of the AAP asthma physical and emotional health scores, symptom-days, and school days missed in the past 2 weeks. Latino children had equivalent AAP scores but missed more school days than white children. On the basis of the AAP asthma physical health score, the black-white disparity persisted after adjusting for other sociodemographic variables. After adjusting for sociodemographic variables and asthma status, black and Latino children were less likely to be using inhaled antiinflammatory medication than white children (relative risk for blacks: 0.69; relative risk for Latinos: 0.58). They were more likely to have home nebulizers. Other processes of asthma care, including ratings of providers and asthma care, use of written management plans, use of preventive visits and specialists, and having no pets or smokers at home, were equal or better for minority children compared with white children.

CONCLUSIONS: Black and Latino children had worse asthma status and less use of preventive asthma medications than white children within the same managed Medicaid populations. Most other processes of asthma care seemed to be equal or better for minorities in the populations that we studied. Increasing the use of preventive medications is a natural focus for reducing racial disparities in asthma.

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