Chronic physical health conditions among children of different racial/ethnic backgrounds

P Kitsantas, M L Kornides, J Cantiello, H Wu
Public Health 2013, 127 (6): 546-53

OBJECTIVES: It is estimated that 20% of children in the USA are affected by at least one chronic disease. Although the burden of chronic conditions is greater for minority populations of children, research that has explored the prevalence and risk factors of chronic disease across different racial/ethnic groups is scarce. The aim of this study was to examine racial/ethnic disparities in the prevalence rates of common physical, chronic diseases in White, Black and Hispanic children; and assess the effect of several factors on the risk of having a chronic disease.

METHODS: Using the 2007 National Survey of Childrens Health, prevalence estimates were calculated for asthma, hearing impairment, visual impairment, joint/bone/muscle problems, brain injury and other illnesses for each racial/ethnic group. Multivariate logistic regression analyses were conducted to examine the effects of several risk factors on the risk of each of these health conditions.

RESULTS: The findings show that the prevalence for all health conditions was significantly higher (25.3%) among Black children than White (19.8%) and Hispanic (18.6%) children. Furthermore, 19.5% of Black children have had or currently have asthma compared with 12.2% of White and Hispanic children. More Black and Hispanic children were covered by public health insurance, while 19% of Hispanic children were currently uninsured. White children whose mothers had a health problem were associated with asthma, hearing impairment, visual impairment and joint/bone/muscle problems, while Black children were more likely to report asthma and Hispanics reported visual impairment and joint/bone muscle problems. Hispanic children who were living in poverty or were uninsured were at lower risk for any chronic disease. Regardless of race/ethnicity, children living in a single-parent household were more likely to be associated with any health condition.

CONCLUSIONS: This study provides evidence that racial/ethnic disparities in chronic physical conditions and health care among US children are extensive. It underscores that uninsured children who do not have access to the healthcare system are not being screened for chronic diseases, or are not obtaining medical care for such health problems. Healthcare providers should educate families about prevention measures and community services that might be able to assist them in improving the health of their children.

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