Emergency Department Utilization

In 2005, more than 21 percent of children went to a hospital emergency room or emergency department (ER/ED) at least once. Children with family incomes above the poverty level ($19,971 for a family of four) were less likely than children in poverty to have visited the ER/ED. Nearly 27 percent of low-income children made one to three emergency room visits during the year, compared to 18.7 percent of children in higher-income families. Similarly, 2.5 percent of low-income children and less than 1 percent of children with family incomes above the poverty level made four or more visits to the ER/ED.

The use of ER/EDs also varied by other demographic factors including age and race and ethnicity. Younger children used the ER/ED more often than older children and adolescents; 25.4 percent of children under 5 years of age made 1–3 visits to the emergency room compared to 18.2 percent of 5- to 9-year-olds and fewer than 16.5 percent of adolescents aged 10–14 and 15–17 years. Similarly, 2.0 percent of children under 5 years made 4 or more visits to the ER/ED compared to 1.1 percent of those aged 5–9 and fewer than 1 percent each of 10- to 14-year-olds and 15- to 17-year-olds.

Non-Hispanic Black children were most likely to visit the ER/ED in 2004 (24.2 percent), followed by non-Hispanic White children (20.1 percent), and Hispanic children (19.5 percent). Non-Hispanic children of other races (including Asian/Pacific Islanders, American Indian/Alaska Natives, and children of multiple races) had the lowest percentage of children with at least one ER/ED visit (18.0 percent; data not shown).

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