CHICAGO, IL – Pediatric care for non-white children in the United States is universally worse according to a two-paper investigation published in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health. The research found that children of color are more likely to face disparities in healthcare, including pain management, diagnostic imaging, surgical complications, and developmental disability diagnosis and treatment.
Dr. Nia Heard-Garris, a researcher at Northwestern University and pediatrician at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago who oversaw the review, emphasized the widespread nature of these inequities, affecting Black Americans, Hispanic, Latinx, and Asian Americans. The review specifically focused on studies that included children with health insurance, indicating that insurance coverage was not the cause of these disparities.
One of the most significant disparities identified was in the area of pain management. Non-white children were found to be less likely to receive painkillers for various conditions, including broken bones, appendicitis, and migraines. Dr. Monique Jindal, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and one of the authors of the review, noted the severity of these examples and emphasized the need for tangible solutions to address these disparities.
Structural racism, unequal access to healthy housing and economic opportunities, disparate policing of non-white children, and unconscious bias among healthcare providers were identified as underlying causes of these inequities. Dr. Monika Goyal, associate chief of emergency medicine at Children’s National Hospital, emphasized the need for policy changes to address these systemic issues.
While long-term policy changes may be necessary to address these disparities, there are immediate steps that healthcare providers can take to examine their own practices for biases. Dr. Heard-Garris emphasized the importance of challenging biases, learning more, and reviewing patient charts to ensure equitable care for all children.
Ultimately, the research highlights the pervasive nature of inequities in pediatric care and the need for comprehensive, systemic solutions to address these disparities.