Racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in the diagnosis and treatment of sleep-disordered breathing in children

Emily F. Boss, David F. Smith, Stacey L. Ishman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Objective: Although racial/ethnic and socioeconomic healthcare disparities in pediatric primary care are widely documented, little is known regarding health disparities for common otolaryngic conditions. Pediatric sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) is highly prevalent, associated with significant physical and neurocognitive sequelae, and a common reason for pediatric otolaryngology referral. We sought to synthesize information from published findings related to racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in children with SDB. Methods: Qualitative systematic review of MEDLINE database for articles reporting on racial/ethnic or socioeconomic differences in prevalence, diagnosis or surgical treatment of SDB in children over 30 years. Results: Of 210 abstracts identified, 33 met inclusion criteria. 24 articles directly addressed differences in race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status, and 10 had findings which identified a disparity. Differences were identified in prevalence, sleep patterns, and sequelae of pediatric SDB (24/33) and in access to care and utilization of adenotonsillectomy (10/33). Black children (12/33) and children with socioeconomic deprivation (17/33) were the most common minority groups studied. Although conclusions were broad, common study findings showed: (1) children in racial/ethnic and socioeconomic minorities may have higher prevalence and greater risk for SDB, and (2) In the U.S., white children or children with private insurance are more likely to undergo adenotonsillectomy. Conclusions: Racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities are prevalent among children with SDB. Disparities in multiracial populations and disparities in access to care, treatment, and utilization of services for pediatric SDB require more detailed investigation. Given the potential negative impact of SDB in children, as well as its economic consequences, the evaluation of disparities should be prioritized in health policy research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)299-307
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2011


  • Healthcare disparities
  • Obstructive sleep apnea in children
  • Sleep-disordered breathing
  • Systematic review
  • Tonsillectomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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