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Minority Children Continue to Suffer Health Disparities

— February 5, 2024

New study shows nonwhite children begin to feel the affects of health disparities at birth.

A five-year review has exposed significant healthcare disparities affecting minority children, particularly Black and Hispanic kids, starting from birth and persisting across various medical specialties. This extensive analysis, spanning from January 2017 to July 2022, included hundreds of studies, considering factors like:

  • Insurance status,
  • Family socioeconomic conditions, and
  • Financial situations
  • Preexisting health conditions.

The study was published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health. In it, the study paints a stark picture of racial and ethnic inequities in care, treatment, and health outcomes across the entire spectrum of pediatric specialties.

Some common disparities effective minority children include:

Neonatology. Black and Hispanic infants consistently receive lower-quality neonatal care compared to their white counterparts, marking the inception of healthcare disparities from the earliest moments of life.

Primary Care. The study highlights poorer communication between healthcare providers and nonwhite children, youth, and families in primary care settings. This communication gap raises concerns about the quality of interaction and engagement between healthcare professionals and minority pediatric patients.

Minority Children Continue to Suffer Health Disparities
Photo by Mary Taylor from Pexels

Emergency Medicine. Disparities extend to emergency room visits, with differences observed in:

  • Wait times,
  • Prioritization for care,
  • Medical equipment and medicine intensity, and
  • Suspected child abuse cases.

These discrepancies are mostly present in non-white children, focusing on the urgent need for standardized protocols to ensure fair and unbiased treatment in emergency healthcare settings.

Pain Management. One of the most significant disparities lays in pain management, where nonwhite children are consistently less likely to receive painkillers for conditions such as broken limbs, appendicitis, or migraines compared to their white counterparts. This inequity in pain management highlights a critical area for improvement to ensure equal access to necessary medical interventions.

End-of-Life Care. In end-of-life care, Black, Hispanic, and Asian American children face a higher likelihood of dying in the hospital compared to white children. Moreover, Hispanic children receive medically intense care compared to others in NICUs in case it is determined that a negative outcome is expected.

Interestingly, the study shows that white children also experience drawbacks resulting from these inequitable care practices. Medically unnecessary interventions, including painkillers, antibiotics, IV fluids, and diagnostic imaging, are often administered to white children, highlighting a broader issue of overuse of medical interventions.

The study, led by Natalie Slopen of Harvard University, highlights the systemic nature of healthcare disparities affecting minority children throughout their lives. While controlling for factors outside the healthcare system, the research also delves into how policies in housing, employment, and the criminal justice system contribute to structural racism, perpetuating pediatric health disparities.

The persistent healthcare disparities affecting nonwhite children, as highlighted in the five-year review, carries profound implications for the well-being and future of minority youth.

The disparities identified in neonatal care, primary care, emergency medicine, pain management, and end-of-life care contribute to a cumulative impact on the overall health of nonwhite children. From delayed or inadequate treatments to communication gaps, these early disparities may set the stage for long-term health challenges and outcomes.

Emergency medicine, a critical aspect of healthcare, brings disparities in wait times, prioritization, and evaluations for suspected child abuse to light. Addressing these issues is essential to ensure that nonwhite children receive timely and unbiased emergency care, preventing potential long-term consequences.

The observed disparities in end-of-life care, with a higher likelihood of minority children dying in the hospital, necessitate a reevaluation of the quality and approach to such care. Addressing these challenges is essential to ensure that all children, regardless of their racial or ethnic backgrounds, receive dignified and compassionate end-of-life care.

In response to these findings, healthcare providers are urged to address personal biases, and healthcare systems are encouraged to implement policies that mitigate against these biases. The study serves as a tool for empowerment, calling on healthcare professionals, parents, and advocacy organizations to demand equitable and optimal healthcare practices for all children, irrespective of their racial or ethnic backgrounds.


Widespread health care disparities revealed: Hardships for minority kids start at birth

Overview of pediatric palliative care

Guidance for Pediatric End-of-Life Care

Racial and ethnic inequities in the quality of paediatric care in the USA: a review of quantitative evidence

Policy solutions to eliminate racial and ethnic child health disparities in the USA

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