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Study finds racial and ethnic disparities in usage of specialty services for children with autism
Date:6/16/2013

A study from investigators at MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC) found that African-American or Hispanic children diagnosed with autism were significantly less likely than white children to have received subspecialty care or procedures related to conditions that often accompany autism spectrum disorders. While previous studies have documented that minority children with autism tend to be diagnosed at a later age than white children, this report which will appear in the July issue of Pediatrics and has been released online is the first to describe disparities in the use of specialty services in gastroenterology, psychiatry or psychology.

"We think there are probably many reasons for these differences," says Sarabeth Broder-Fingert, MD, of MGHfC and the Center for Child and Adolescent Health Research and Policy at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), lead author of the report. "Many autism-related medical symptoms including gastrointestinal issues like constipation and neuropsychiatric issues such as anxiety or sleep disorders are not well understood, so doctors may not realize children are having those symptoms."

The research team reviewed records for more than 3,600 patients ages 2 to 21 with a diagnosis of autism who received care at the MGH or its affiliated health centers from 2000 through 2010. Data on each clinical visit was analyzed, with particular attention to specialty care in gastroenterology, psychiatry and psychology and to procedures including endoscopy, ultrasound, EEG, brain imaging and sleep studies. Among the patients identified, 81 percent were white, 5 percent were African-American and 7 percent, Hispanic.

The analysis revealed that minority children were significantly less likely to have received either subspecialty care or procedures, with some of the most significant differences in gastroenterology services, which were accessed by almost 14 percent of white children but only 9 percent of
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Contact: Kory Dodd Zhao
kzhao2@partners.org
617-726-0274
Massachusetts General Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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