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Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2010 Nov;143(5):691-6. doi: 10.1016/j.otohns.2010.06.911.

Influence of race and ethnicity on access to care among children with frequent ear infections.

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  • 1Division of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Department of Otology and Laryngology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.



Determine the impact of racial/ethnic disparities on access to care for children with frequent ear infections (FEI). Identify disparities to target for intervention.


Cross-sectional analysis of national database.


Academic medical center.


The National Health Interview Survey (1997 to 2006) was utilized to identify children with FEI (defined as three or more ear infections in the preceding year). Age, sex, race/ethnicity, income level, and insurance status were extracted. Access to care was measured by ability to afford medical care and prescription medications, specialist visitation, and emergency department visits. Multivariate analysis determined the influence of demographic variables on the ability to access health care resources.


An annualized population of 4.65 ± 0.08 million children reported FEI. Overall, 3.7 percent could not afford care, 5.6 percent could not afford prescriptions, and only 25.8 percent saw a specialist. A larger percentage of the black (42.7%) and Hispanic children (34.5%) with FEI were below the poverty level, versus white children (12.4%; P < 0.001); 18.2 percent of Hispanic children were uninsured, versus 6.5 percent of white children (P < 0.001). On multivariate analysis, children with FEI that were black or Hispanic had increased odds ratios relative to white children for 1) not being able to afford prescription medications (odds ratios [OR] 1.76 and 1.47, respectively; P < 0.002); 2) not being able to see a specialist (OR 1.62 and 1.86, respectively; P < 0.001); and 3) visiting the emergency department (OR 2.50 and 1.32, respectively; P < 0.001).


Racial/ethnic disparities among children with FEI significantly influence health care resource access and utilization. These disparities should be targeted for intervention.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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