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Demographic disparities among children with frequent ear infections in the United States

Authors

  • Kalpesh T. Vakharia MD,

    1. Department of Otology and Laryngology, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
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  • Nina L. Shapiro MD,

    1. Division of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.
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  • Neil Bhattacharyya MD

    Corresponding author
    1. Division of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Department of Otology and Laryngology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
    • Division of Otolaryngology, 45 Francis St., Boston, MA 02115
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  • Neil Bhattacharyya is a consultant with Intersect ENT and Entellus. The authors have no other funding, financial relationships, or conflicts of interest to disclose.

Abstract

Objectives/Hypothesis:

To evaluate current racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in the prevalence of frequent ear infections (FEI) among children in the United States.

Study Design:

Cross-sectional study.

Methods:

The National Health Interview Survey (years 1997 to 2006) was utilized to evaluate children who were reported by their parent/guardian to have “3 or more ear infections during the past 12 months.” Demographic variables evaluated included age, sex, race/ethnicity, income level, and insurance status. Multivariate analyses determined the influence of demographic variables on the prevalence of FEI in children.

Results:

Among an annualized population of 72.6 million children (average age, 8.55 ± 0.19 years), 4.65 ± 0.07 million children (6.6 ± 0.1%) reported FEI. FEI was more commonly reported in white (7.0 ± 0.1%) and Hispanic (6.2 ± 0.2%) than in black (5.0 ± 0.2%) and other race/ethnic groups (4.5 ± 0.3%, P < .001). A larger portion of children in households below the poverty level reported FEI (8.0 ± 0.3%, P < .001). Of children with no health insurance 5.4 ± 0.3% had FEI. On multivariate analysis, black, Hispanic and other race/ethnic group had decreased odds ratio for FEI relative to white children (odds ratios: 0.63, 0.76, and 0.60, respectively, all P < .001). Income below poverty level also predicted FEI (odds ratio, 1.322, P < .001), whereas lack of insurance coverage did not (P = .181).

Conclusions:

Despite increasing awareness, there are still notable racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities among children with FEI. Further efforts to eliminate these disparities and improve the care of children with FEI are needed. Laryngoscope, 2010

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