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Racial and Ethnic Differences in Childhood Asthma Treatment in the United States

Keywords: Children;race–ethnicity;insurance status;asthma controller medications;decomposition

Objective: To examine racial–ethnic differences in asthma controller medication use among insured U.S. children.

Data Sources: Linked nationally representative data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (2005–2008), the 2000 Decennial Census, and the National Health Interview Survey (2004–2007).

Study Design: The study quantifies the portion of racial–ethnic differences in children's controller use that are attributable to differences in need, enabling and predisposing characteristics.

Principal Findings: Non-Hispanic black and Hispanic children were less likely to use controllers than non-Hispanic white children. Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition results indicated that observable characteristics explain less than 40 percent of the overall differential in controller use between non-Hispanic whites and non-Hispanic blacks. In contrast, observable characteristics explain more than two-thirds (71.3 percent) of the overall non-Hispanic white-Hispanic differential in controller use. For non-Hispanic blacks, a majority of the explained differential in controller use were attributed to enabling characteristics. For Hispanics, a significant portion of the explained differential in controller use was attributed to predisposing characteristics. In addition, a larger portion of the differential in controller use was explained by observable characteristics for publicly insured non-Hispanic black and Hispanic children.

Conclusions: The large observed differences in controller use highlight the continuing challenges of ensuring that all U.S. children have access to quality asthma care.

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