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Demographic disparities found among children with frequent ear infections
Date:8/9/2010

Research has documented that ethnic and socioeconomic disparities exist among patients with conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Now, a new study by researchers from UCLA and Harvard University has found disparities among children suffering from repeated ear infections.

The findings, published in the August edition of the journal Laryngoscope, show that frequent ear infections plague white children and children living below the poverty level more than children of other racial or ethnic backrounds or income levels.

Despite a recent overall decline in the incidence of otitis media, or ear infection, it is still one of the most common and burdensome ailments affecting children. More than 80 percent of children have at least one infection by the age of 3, and medical and surgical treatments for these infections cost $3 billion to $5 billion annually. Each year, about 4.65 million children in the U.S. suffer "frequent" ear infections, defined as more than three infections over a 12-month period.

"An understanding of the size and distribution of the population of children with frequent ear infections is important because it is often these patients who will require more invasive and costly treatments," said study co-author Dr. Nina Shapiro, director of pediatric otolaryngology at Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA and an associate professor of surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "In this era of health care reform, it will be important to determine how to reach out to this population of children, whose inadequate health insurance coverage limits their options for treatment."

Researchers used data from a 10-year period (1997-2006) taken from the National Health Interview Survey, a large-scale, household-based survey of a statistically representative sample of the U.S. population.

Parents of children under the age of 18 were asked various questions, including whether their child had th
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Contact: Amy Albin
aalbin@mednet.ucla.edu
310-794-8672
University of California - Los Angeles
Source:Eurekalert

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