Economic Hardship Drives Hospital Readmissions For Asthma Treatment In Black Youth

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African-American youth are twice as likely as Whites to be readmitted to the hospital for treatment of asthma, according to a new study by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, reports WCPO Cincinnati.

SEE ALSO: ‘Structural Racism’ Blamed For Severe Health Disparities In Minnesota

An estimated 23 percent of Black children were rehospitalized for asthma within a year, compared to 11 percent of other children – most of whom were White, WCPO reports, citing the study published online in the eFirst pages of the journal Pediatrics.

Financial and social hardships, such as lack of employment and not owning a car among caregivers, accounted for about 40 percent of the increased likelihood of asthma readmissions among Black children.

Readmission rates are a central focus of healthcare reform,” Andrew Beck, M.D., a pediatrician at Cincinnati Children’s and lead author of the study, said in a news release. “Reducing disparities in such outcomes will be critical, especially since payment reform will be based more on quality outcomes and less so on healthcare encounters.

“=Our findings suggest a more intense patient- and- population-level focus on the financial and social hardships that underlie racial disparities [and] may provide one path for achieving better outcomes, Beck added in the news release. Identifying hardships could prompt partnerships with individuals and agencies poised to provide added community support for families.

Research involved 774 patients from the Greater Cincinnati Asthma Risks Study (GCARS) who were between the ages of 1 and 16. They were admitted to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital between Aug. 2010 and Oct. 2011 and 57 percent were Black. “Caregivers of Black children were significantly more likely than caregivers of White children to report financial and social hardships, which together with traditional measures of low socioeconomic status explained about half of the disparity in readmissions,” the report says.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that asthma is one of the leading causes of school absenteeism. School-based asthma programs have helped counter the problem by helping to establish strong links to clinicians who ensure appropriate and ongoing medical care, targeting students who are most affected and developing intervention treatment for those in need, among other things.

“There is tremendous potential for changes in clinical practice,” Robert Kahn, MD, a pediatrician at Cincinnati Children’s and senior author of the study, said in the news release. “Transportation barriers might be addressed with home delivery of medications, job barriers with a connection to job training, and both helped by a community health worker. The goal would be upstream, community-based prevention, rather than paying for readmissions.”

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