Racial differences in emergency department use persist despite allergist visits and prescriptions filled for antiinflammatory medications

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African-American children use the emergency department (ED) for asthma care more than their Caucasian counterparts.


We sought to compare ED utilization for asthma care by race, adjusting for prescriptions filled for antiinflammatory medications, type of index visit (specialist vs nonspecialist), and demographic variables.


An index asthma visit was identified for a cohort of managed care enrollees aged 4 to 11 years. Information on asthma encounters and drug claims data was evaluated during a prospective observation period of 12 months.


African-American race was associated with one or more ED visits during the observation period (relative risk [RR] = 1.8, 95% CI = 1.3 to 2.5, p < 0.01). After adjusting for index visit type, prescriptions filled, and selected demographic variables, African-American race remained associated with post-index ED utilization (adjusted RR = 1.6, 95% CI = 1.0 to 2.4, p = 0.05). Additional findings included an inverse relationship between African-American race and anti-inflammatory medications among children with nonspecialist index visits (RR = 0.5, 95%CI = 0.3 to 0.9, p = 0.02) and a positive relationship between African-American race and hospitalization after an ED visit for asthma care (RR = 10.2, 95% CI = 1.4 to 74.8, p < 0.01).


African-American children were more likely to use ED asthma care even after adjusting for the type of index visit, prescriptions filled for antiinflammatory medications, and selected demographic variables. Racial differences in ED utilization for asthma care could be caused by a higher prevalence of uncontrolled or undertreated disease among African-American children not receiving specialty care.

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