Understanding Disparities in the Pediatric ICU: A Scoping Review

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BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Health disparities are pervasive in pediatrics. We aimed to describe disparities among patients who are likely to be cared for in the PICU and delineate how sociodemographic data are collected and categorized. METHODS: Using MEDLINE as a data source, we identified studies which included an objective to assess sociodemographic disparities among PICU patients in the United States. We created a review rubric, which included methods of sociodemographic data collection and analysis, outcome and exposure variables assessed, and study findings. Two authors reviewed every study. We used the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Framework to organize outcome and exposure variables. RESULTS: The 136 studies included used variable methods of sociodemographic data collection and analysis. A total of 30 of 124 studies (24%) assessing racial disparities used self- or parent-identified race. More than half of the studies (52%) dichotomized race as white and “nonwhite” or “other” in some analyses. Socioeconomic status (SES) indicators also varied; only insurance status was used in a majority of studies (72%) evaluating SES. Consistent, although not uniform, disadvantages existed for racial minority populations and patients with indicators of lower SES. The authors of only 1 study evaluated an intervention intended to mitigate health disparities. Requiring a stated objective to evaluate disparities aimed to increase the methodologic rigor of included studies but excluded some available literature. CONCLUSIONS: Variable, flawed methodologies diminish our understanding of disparities in the PICU. Meaningfully understanding and addressing health inequity requires refining how we collect, analyze, and interpret relevant data.

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