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Hospital Emergency Departments Treat Mostly Poor Children

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AHRQ News and Numbers

Release date: May 22, 2008

Lower-income children made almost twice as many visits to hospital emergency departments than higher-income children in 2005, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

AHRQ's analysis compared rates of emergency room visits by children from low-income communities, where the average household income was $36,999, with those of children from high-income communities with an average household income of over $61,000. The rate for those from low-income communities was 414 visits for every 1,000 children. For children from high-income communities, the rate was 223 visits for every 1,000 children. The study was based on more than 12 million emergency department visits by children under age 18 in 23 States.

AHRQ also found that:

  • In 96 percent of all visits, children were treated and released. Those cases included respiratory conditions; superficial injuries such as bruises; middle ear infections; open wounds such as cuts and scrapes on arms and legs; and muscle sprains and strains.
  • For the 5 percent of children admitted to hospitals, the top reasons were pneumonia, asthma, acute bronchitis, appendicitis, dehydration and other fluid and electrolyte disorders, depression and other mood disorders, and epileptic convulsions.
  • Roughly 45 percent of the visits were covered by Medicaid, 43 percent were covered by private insurance, 9 percent were uninsured, and 3 percent had other types of coverage.

This AHRQ News & Numbers summary is based on data in Pediatric Emergency Department Visits in Community Hospitals from Selected States, 2005. The report uses statistics from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project's State Emergency Department Databases and State Inpatient Databases from 23 States.

For more information, or to speak with an AHRQ data expert, contact Bob Isquith at or call (301) 427-1539.

Current as of May 2008


The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.


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