Health Policy

Hospital and emergency department use by young low-income children.

Polivka, B.J.; Nickel, J.T.; Salsberry, P.J.; Kuthy, R.A.; Shapiro, N.; Slack, C.
2000 Sep-Oct

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Limited data are available concerning determinants of health care service usage by low-income young children.

OBJECTIVES: To explore predictors of hospitalization and emergency department (ED) use by young children of low-income families by using the Aday and Andersen Access Framework.

METHODS: Low-income women (n = 474) with a child younger than 6 years completed a structured face-to-face interview at human service offices or Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) clinics in four central Ohio counties. Women were considered low-income if they or their child were Medicaid eligible or uninsured. Data were collected for both the mother and the index child on sociodemographic status, health services use, health status, and access to care.

RESULTS: Fifteen percent of the children had been hospitalized the previous year, and half had an ED visit. Hospitalization was significantly related to maternal hospitalization the previous year (OR = 2.5), child age younger than 1 year old (OR = 2.1) and more than two chronic conditions (OR = 2.2). Maternal ED usage in the last year (OR = 2.2), Medicaid fee for service plan (OR = 1.7), and rural residence (OR = 2.0) were predictive of ED use.

CONCLUSIONS: Predisposing characteristics (maternal hospital/ED use) were predictive of both hospitalization and ED use by the index child. Enabling characteristics (fee-for-service Medicaid plan, rurality) were only predictive of ED use, and need characteristics (child's health) were only predictive of hospitalization. Further research to explore linkages between maternal and child use of health care services as well as the effect of changes in health care access, managed care, and other innovations on hospitalization and ED use in young, low-income children is recommended.