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Study Finds Significant Racial Disparities in Pediatric Mental Health Rehospitalizations

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Understanding and mitigating social determinants of health, such as insurance coverage, household income and residence in a rural area could improve equity in the treatment of children with mental health conditions, according to an AHRQ-supported study published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Researchers analyzed more than 23,000 hospitalizations for children aged 5 to 18 years from 2016 to 2018 at 32 freestanding U.S. children’s hospitals to determine which children were more likely to be readmitted for mental health conditions. Of 1,382 90-day mental health rehospitalizations, researchers found that non-Hispanic Black children were 26 percent more likely to be rehospitalized for mental health conditions to acute care non-psychiatric children’s hospitals within 90 days than non-Hispanic white children. Children with government insurance were 18 percent more likely to be rehospitalized than those with private insurance. Those living in a suburb were 22 percent less likely to be rehospitalized than those living in an urban location.

Researchers conclude that future efforts should work on upstream interventions that will address social disparities to promote equity in pediatric mental healthcare.

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