INDIANAPOLIS (Newswise) — A new study finds increasing pediatric readiness in emergency departments reduces racial and ethnic disparities in children and adolescents with acute medical emergencies. The study, which involved Indiana University School of Medicine, Oregon Health and Science University and UC Davis Health, points out that boosts in readiness do not eliminate such disparities, however.
“Ours is a national study group focused on pediatric emergency department readiness,” said Peter Jenkins, MD, associate professor surgery at Indiana University School of Medicine and first author of the study.
“A lot of times when we talk about health equity, people are concerned that improving the condition of one group may result in another group losing out,” Jenkins said. “This study shows the opposite to be true. All groups benefit from improved readiness, and we also have this extra layer of social justice woven into the narrative of improved health care quality. These findings only strengthen the case to provide resources to hospitals so they’re prepared to take care of all sick kids.”
Jenkins explained, the research demonstrates a child’s chances of survival improve when an Emergency Department achieves pediatric readiness.
“Readiness” can include staffing, materials, training and protocols, said Jenkins, and the more prepared the hospital and the more protocols in place, then the more likely a child is to survive a traumatic injury or acute medical emergency. Until now, it was unclear whether children of all races and ethnicities benefit the same from increased levels of readiness.
“We believe that treatment protocols help to overcome biases and racism because if a child meets criteria, then we do one thing or another,” Jenkins said. “We saw that for kids with traumatic injuries, whose care is largely determined by such protocols, there weren’t significant differences in survival based on race and ethnicity.
“But for children with medical emergencies, where treatment protocols are often lacking, we found significant disparities in mortality between Black and White kids.
Importantly, the higher the level of readiness of the Emergency Department, the lower the level of disparity between racial and ethnic groups.”
Researchers looked at 633,536 pediatric patients at hospitals in 11 states from 2012-2017, making this one of the largest studies of racial and ethnic disparities among children to date.
In the future, the group plans to look at updated surveys of hospitals to determine if there have been changes in pediatric readiness over time. Jenkins said they also plan to promote the importance of health equity into the national platform for pediatric readiness.
In addition to Indiana University School of Medicine, the study involved researchers from Oregon Health and Science University and UC Davis Health. The findings were recently published in JAMA Network Open. Other lead collaborators include Nathan Kuppermann, MD, MPH from UC Davis and Craig Newgard, MD, MPH from OHSU. Read the full publication in JAMA Network Open.
IU School of Medicine is the largest medical school in the U.S. and is annually ranked among the top medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
The school offers high-quality medical education, access to leading medical research and rich campus life in nine Indiana cities, including rural and urban locations consistently recognized for livability.