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Pediatric ambulatory care sensitive conditions: Birth cohorts and the socio-economic gradient

Leslie L. Roos, Roxana Dragan, Robert J. Schroth


OBJECTIVES: This study examines the socio-economic gradient in utilization and the risk factors associated with hospitalization for four pediatric ambulatory care sensitive conditions (dental conditions, asthma, gastroenteritis, and bacterial pneumonia). Dental conditions, where much care is provided by dentists and insurance coverage varies among different population segments, present special issues.

METHODS: A population registry, provider registry, physician ambulatory claims, and hospital discharge abstracts from 28 398 children born in 2003–2006 in urban centres in Manitoba, Canada were the main data sources. Physician visits and hospitalizations were compared across neighbourhood income groupings using rank correlations and logistic regressions.

RESULTS: Very strong relationships between neighbourhood income and utilization were highlighted. Additional variables – family on income assistance, mother’s age at first birth, breastfeeding – helped predict the probability of hospitalization. Despite the complete insurance coverage (including visits to dentists and physicians and for hospitalizations) provided, receiving income assistance was associated with higher probabilities of hospitalization.

CONCLUSIONS: We found a socio-economic gradient in utilization for pediatric ambulatory care sensitive conditions, with higher rates of ambulatory visits and hospitalizations in the poorest neighbourhoods. Insurance coverage which varies between different segments of the population complicates matters. Providing funding for dental care for Manitobans on income assistance has not prevented physician visits or intensive treatment in high-cost facilities, specifically treatment under general anesthesia. When services from one type of provider (dentist) are not universally insured but those from another type (physician) are, using rates of hospitalization to indicate problems in the organization of care seems particularly difficult.


Pediatric dental conditions; early childhood caries; physician visits; hospitalizations; birth cohorts; socio-economic gradient

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