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Purpose of review: To review healthcare disparities encountered by pediatric patients in the emergency department. The discussion focuses on recent research that is relevant to the field of pediatric emergency medicine.

Recent findings: The majority of recent research focuses on healthcare disparities affecting black and Hispanic children and adolescents. Disparities are identified in the areas of emergency department utilization, the provision of effective interpreter services, and the epidemiology and management of specific illnesses, including asthma, adolescent sexual health, and mental health. The findings suggest that disparities persist after controlling for socioeconomic factors and that the effect on healthcare outcomes is measurable. Interventions to mitigate healthcare disparities have shown mixed results. There is some evidence that disparity reduction is possible.

Summary: Recent research demonstrates that healthcare disparities exist in several areas affecting the delivery of quality pediatric emergency care. These disparities are shaped by a complex interaction of social, cultural, behavioral, educational, and financial factors. More research is needed to increase the body of knowledge as to why disparities exist. The success of this future research may require an interdisciplinary approach incorporating experts from multiple scientific fields.

(C) 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.