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Objective: We examined pediatric hospitalizations to assess personal and community factors affecting potentially preventable ambulatory care-sensitive condition (ACSC) hospitalizations.

Methods: Data came from the South Carolina 1998 Hospital Inpatient Encounter Database, which yielded 10,156 ACSC discharges among 81,808 pediatric hospitalizations. Analyses were performed at three levels: ACSC as a percentage of all hospitalizations, ACSC patients compared with other patients, and county ACSC rates.

Results: Younger, male, and nonwhite children; children with Medicaid insurance coverage; and children living in rural areas, health professional shortage area-designated counties, and poorer counties with fewer heath care resources were more likely to be hospitalized with ACSCs. A high percentage of children living in poverty and an absence of federally qualified community health centers were predictive of high county ACSC rates.

Conclusion: Poverty and the absence of a provider serving low-income children increase ACSC rates. Monitoring changes in ACSC rates can be a tool for studying the effects of policy change.

(C) 2003 Southern Medical Association