Understanding disparities in emergency department visits for asthma

Brandon M Kimmins, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Asthma is the most common chronic disorder in childhood, affecting an estimated 6.2 million children under 18 years (1). The purpose of this study was to look at individual- and community-level characteristics simultaneously to examine and explain the factors that contribute to the use of emergency department services by children 18 years old or less and to determine if there was an association between air quality and ED visits in the same population, from 2005-2007 in Houston/Harris County. Data were collected from the Houston Safety Net Hospital Emergency Department Use Study and the 2000 US Census. Bivariate and multivariate logistic regression models and mixed effects models were used to analyze data that was collected during the study period. There were 704,902 ED visits made by children 18 and younger, who were living in Houston from January 1, 2005 to December 31, 2007. Of those, 19,098 had a primary discharge diagnosis of asthma. Asthma ED visits varied by season, with proportions of ED visits for asthma highest from September-December. African-American children were 2.6 (95% CI, 2.43-2.66) times more likely to have an ED visit for asthma compared to White children. Poverty, single parent headed households, and younger age all a greater likelihood of having gone to the ED for asthma treatment. Compared to Whites living in lightly-monitored pollution areas, African-Americans and Hispanics living in heavily monitored areas were 1.15 (95% CI, 1.04-1.28) times more likely to have an ED visit for asthma. Race and poverty seem to account for a large portion of the disparities in ED use found among children. This was true even after accounting for multiple individual- and community-level variables. These results suggest that racial disparities in asthma continue to pose risks for African American children, and they point to the need for additional research into potential explanations and remedies. Programs to reduce inappropriate ED use must be sensitive to an array of complex socioeconomic issues within minority and income populations.

Subject Area

Public health|Health care management

Recommended Citation

Kimmins, Brandon M, "Understanding disparities in emergency department visits for asthma" (2009). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3366684.