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University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center
Publish Date: 05/02/09
Media Contact: Jim Feuer, 513-636-4656
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Rehospitalization for Asthma Is Linked to Financial Strain

CINCINNATI—While African-American and low-income children are at increased risk for asthma, the “financial strain” that many families are under better explains the risk of hospital readmission for asthma than does either race or income.

Children in families under the highest financial strain are four times more likely to be readmitted than those with the lowest strain, regardless of race or income, according to a new Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center study.

“Understanding the financial strain families are under can help us identify children at greatest risk and provide the best asthma care to keep children out of the hospital,” says Jeff Simmons, MD, a pediatrician at Cincinnati Children’s and the study’s lead author. Simmons is an assistant professor in the pediatrics department at the University of Cincinnati.

The study will be presented Saturday, May 2, at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) in Baltimore.

Simmons and his colleagues at Cincinnati Children’s interviewed parents of 567 children and teens, ages 1 to 16, hospitalized at Cincinnati Children’s for worsening asthma. The researchers explored the relationship of several risk factors for asthma, including race, income and financial strain, to patients’ histories of prior admission for asthma.

They studied seven measures of financial strain. Some were purely financial, such as the inability to pay full rent or mortgage at any time during the past year, and some were social measures, such as whether they had a network of family and friends to turn to for help. 

Children of lower income families and African-American children had greater financial strain and risk of asthma readmission. In the final analysis, however, financial strain explained most of the effects of race and income on readmission risk, suggesting that “these important risk factors may exert their impact on health through potentially modifiable hardships,” says Simmons.

“The question for physicians and those involved in health care quality improvement is, ‘What can we do to have a greater impact on reducing readmission rates?’”says Robert Kahn, MD, senior author on the study and UC associate professor of pediatrics. “The answer might have to do with reducing medication copays, solving transportation issues or ensuring families are receiving the benefits for which they are eligible, such as food stamps. If families are under such strain that they can’t pay for food, how can we expect them to pay for a bus or cab to get to their doctor appointments?”

The PAS meeting, sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Pediatric Society, the Society for Pediatric Research and the Ambulatory Pediatric Association, is the largest international meeting to focus on research in child health.

About Cincinnati Children’s
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center is one of America’s top three children’s hospitals for general pediatrics and is highly ranked for its expertise in digestive diseases, respiratory diseases, cancer, neonatal care, heart care and neurosurgery, according to the annual ranking of best children's hospitals by U.S.News & World Report. One of the three largest children’s hospitals in the U.S., Cincinnati Children’s is affiliated with the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and is one of the top two recipients of pediatric research grants from the National Institutes of Health.

For its achievements in transforming healthcare, Cincinnati Children's is one of six U.S. hospitals since 2002 to be awarded the American Hospital Association-McKesson Quest for Quality Prize ® for leadership and innovation in quality, safety and commitment to patient care. The hospital is a national and international referral center for complex cases, so that children with the most difficult-to-treat diseases and conditions receive the most advanced care leading to better outcomes. Additional information can be found at


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