Poverty Status Influences Trends of Chronic Medical Conditions, Children’s Hospital Research Shows

February 13, 2017

Researchers from Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC have shown how poverty status influences the prevalence of three common chronic medical conditions: asthma, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The study was led by Amy Houtrow, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., chief, Division of Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine at Children’s Hospital and is published online today in the journal Pediatrics.

Researchers analyzed data obtained by the National Survey of Children’s Health for the years 2003, 2007 and 2011-12. They identified trends of each condition and other chronic medical conditions that children with these conditions may have.

“Children living in poverty experience numerous threats to their well-being, including being at higher risk for multiple chronic conditions,” Houtrow said.

During the study’s time period, the lifetime prevalence of asthma rose 18 percent; ADHD rose by 44 percent; and ASD rose nearly 400 percent. For children with asthma, the rise was most prominent among the poor, at nearly 26 percent.

The percent change by poverty status for ADHD was similar, though the rise in ASD was not associated with poverty status. It also was found that children with asthma and ADHD from impoverished households were more likely to have additional chronic medical conditions.

“Our study emphasizes the continued need to investigate the impact of poverty on child health, as well as confirms the need for increased awareness of the effects of poverty on children to inform child health policy,” said Christian Pulcini, M.D., M.Ed., M.P.H., graduate medical resident at Children’s Hospital and first author of the study.

The team concluded that there is a need to further research the adverse effects of poverty on children to make informed decisions about their health and well-being.

Others authors include Bonnie Zima, M.D., M.P.H., UCLA-Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, University of California at Los Angeles; and Kelly Kelleher, M.D., Nationwide Children’s Hospital and The Ohio State University.