Posts

ambulance

Racial disparities in pediatric deaths related to police intervention

ambulance

Black and Hispanic adolescents are significantly more likely to die from shootings related to police intervention compared to non-Hispanic white adolescents, a recent study shows.

A recent study evaluating the use of force by police against children found that Black and Hispanic adolescents are significantly more likely to die from shootings related to police intervention compared to non-Hispanic white adolescents. The findings, led by Children’s National Hospital researchers and reported online Nov. 24 in Pediatrics, mirror similar racial and ethnic disparities in adults and highlight the need for interventions and policies to mitigate these tragedies.

In recent years, concerns about police use of force — particularly its disproportionate application to people of color — have grown exponentially in the U.S. Between 2003 and 2018, there were 6,512 firearm deaths from police intervention in adults, with non-Hispanic Blacks and Hispanics having significantly higher per population mortality rates than whites. However, it’s been unclear whether similar racial and ethnic disparities exist for adolescents killed by police intervention.

To explore this question, Monika K. Goyal, M.D., M.S.C.E., associate division chief of Emergency Medicine and Trauma Services and director of Academic Affairs and Research at Children’s National, and her colleagues used data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Web-Based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System. This database collects national data from death certificates compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics, including cause of death and race and ethnicity.

The researchers identified all adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 years of age who died from firearm injuries due to police intervention between 2003 and 2018 within this database. They then compared rates of these deaths across different racial and ethnic populations based on U.S. Census Bureau data.

Dr. Goyal and her colleagues found that during the 16-year study period, 140 adolescents had died from police intervention, and of those, 113 involved firearms. The vast majority — about 93% — were male, with a mean age of about 16 years.

Using census data, the researchers found that the rate of firearm deaths due to police intervention was markedly higher among non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic youth when compared to non-Hispanic white youth. Numbers show that, compared to non-Hispanic white children, non-Hispanic Black children had a six-fold higher risk of death due to legal intervention. Similarly, Hispanic children had a risk of death almost three times higher.

“As the country works to reform policing practices and strives to mitigate disparities in our justice system, it is essential we do not forget the disproportionate impact on children of color,” Dr. Goyal says. “Our study confirms these disparities that are stark and unacceptable.”

Dr. Goyal adds that the study only collected data on adolescents who died, rather than non-fatal shootings, and thus, may underestimate the true toll of disparities in use of firearms against youth due to police intervention. Although the study was not designed to investigate the causes of these disparities, she says, recent events provide evidence of structural racism and bias among law enforcement personnel and in its policies.

Although these numbers are small, Dr. Goyal notes that there’s a potential rippling effect, with the death of each child having wide-ranging impact on an entire community.

“Any death of a child is devastating but when it is due to police violence, it leads to distrust in the system and undermines the primary mission to protect,” she says. “The pattern of stark racial and ethnic disparities only adds to this tragedy, further oppressing and alienating communities of color. It’s important to investigate, identify and correct those policies and personnel that perpetuate and exacerbate these disparities.”

Other researchers who contributed to this study include Gia M. Badolato, M.P.H., Meleah D. Boyle, M.P.H., and Robert McCarter, Sc.D., all of Children’s National; April M. Zeoli of Michigan State University; and William Terrill of Arizona State University.

 

coronavirus

Higher COVID-19 rates seen in minority socioeconomically disadvantaged children

coronavirus

Minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged children have significantly higher rates of COVID-19 infection, a new study led by Children’s National Hospital researchers shows.

Minority and socioeconomically disadvantaged children have significantly higher rates of COVID-19 infection, a new study led by Children’s National Hospital researchers shows. These findings, reported online August 5 in Pediatrics, parallel similar health disparities for the novel coronavirus that have been found in adults, the authors state.

COVID-19, an infection caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 that emerged in late 2019, has infected more than 4.5 million Americans, including tens of thousands of children. Early in the pandemic, studies highlighted significant disparities in the rates of infection in the U.S., with minorities and socioeconomically disadvantaged adults bearing much higher burdens of infection. However, says Monika Goyal, M.D., M.S.C.E, a pediatric emergency medicine specialist and associate division chief in the Division of Emergency Medicine at Children’s National whose research focuses on health disparities, it’s been unclear whether these disproportionate rates of infection also extend to youth.

To investigate this question, she and her colleagues looked to data collected between March 21, 2020, and April 28, 2020, from a drive-through/walk-up COVID-19 testing site affiliated with Children’s National — one of the first exclusively pediatric testing sites for the virus in the U.S. To access this free testing site, funded by philanthropic support, patients between the ages of 0 and 22 years needed to meet specific criteria: mild symptoms and either known exposure, high-risk status, family member with high-risk status or required testing for work. Physicians referred patients through an online portal that collected basic demographic information, reported symptoms and the reason for referral.

When Dr. Goyal and her colleagues analyzed the data from the first 1,000 patients tested at this site, they found that infection rates differed dramatically among different racial and ethnic groups. While about 7% of non-Hispanic white children were positive for COVID-19, about 30% of non-Hispanic Black and 46% of Hispanic children were positive.

“You’re going from about one in 10 non-Hispanic white children to one in three non-Hispanic Black children and one in two Hispanic children. It’s striking,” says Dr. Goyal.

Using data from the American Families Survey, which uses five-year census estimates derived from home address to estimate median family income, the researchers separated the group of 1,000 patients into estimated family income quartiles. They found marked disparities in COVID-19 positivity rates by income levels: while those in the highest quartile had infection rates of about 9%, about 38% of those in the lowest quartile were infected.

There were additional disparities in exposure status, Dr. Goyal adds. Of the 10% of patients who reported known exposure to COVID-19, about 11% of these were non-Hispanic white. However, non-Hispanic Black children were triple this number.

Although these numbers show clear disparities in COVID-19 infection rates, the authors are now trying to understand why these disparities occur and how they can be mitigated.

“Some possible reasons may be socioeconomic factors that increase exposure, differences in access to health care and resources, as well as structural racism,” says Dr. Goyal.

She adds that Children’s National is working to address those factors that might increase risk for COVID-19 infection and poor outcomes by helping to identify unmet needs — such as food and/or housing insecurity — and steer patients toward resources when patients receive their test results.

“As clinicians and researchers at Children’s National, we pride ourselves on not only being a top-tier research institution that provides cutting-edge care to children, but by being a hospital that cares about the community we serve,” says Denice Cora-Bramble, M.D., M.B.A., chief medical officer of Ambulatory and Community Health Services at Children’s National and the research study’s senior author. “There’s still so much work to be done to achieve health equity for children.”

Other Children’s National researchers who contributed to this study include Joelle N. Simpson, M.D.; Meleah D. Boyle, M.P.H, Gia M. Badolato, M.P.H; Meghan Delaney, D.O,. M.P.H.; and Robert McCarter Jr., Sc.D.

Staphylococcus

Airway microbial diversity in children with Cystic Fibrosis

Staphylococcus

Despite having less overall microbial richness, children with Cystic Fibrosis displayed a greater presence of Staphylococcus species.

Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is a disease that mainly affects the lungs and arises from mutations in the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene that encodes for the CFTR membrane protein located on certain secretory cells. CFTR dysfunction leads to complications such as the production of abnormally viscous mucus which causes chronic suppurative lung infections that require antibiotics to treat. New drugs called CFTR modulators can help improve CFTR protein function and some are even FDA-approved for use in children. In addition to CFTR protein function, the lung’s resident microbiota and its richness of diversity, plays an important role in both health and disease, including CF.

In a new study published in Heliyon, scientists from Children’s National Hospital examined the difference in the upper airway microbiome between children with CF and healthy controls. Age-related differences among children with CF and the impact of CFTR modulators on microbial diversity were also assessed. Seventy-five children between 0-6 years of age participated in the study, including 25 children with CF and 50 healthy controls. For CF participants, oropharyngeal swabs and clinical data were obtained from the biorepository, while data for controls were obtained during a single clinical visit.

Analysis revealed that CF patients had less microbial diversity and different composition of the upper airway microbiome compared to age similar controls, a finding that is consistent with research on the lower airways. Despite having less overall microbial richness, children with CF displayed a greater presence of Staphylococcus species, (a main driver of the pulmonary exacerbations characteristic of CF), three Rothia operational taxonomic units (OTUs) and two Streptococcus OTUs. CF patients received a significantly higher number of antibiotics courses within the previous year compared to healthy controls, and further investigation will be necessary to understand the impact of antibiotics on the upper airway microbiome of infants and children with CF.

Longitudinal comparisons to study effects of age and CFTR modulation on the microbiome of children with CF were also undertaken. Younger CF patients (those 0 to <3 years of age at study enrollment), were more likely to have culturally-normal respiratory flora and more stable microbial composition over time than older CF patients (those ≥ 3–6 years of age at study enrollment), with no significant differences in alpha or beta diversity. Older CF patients were significantly more likely to be receiving a CFTR modulator than younger patients. CF patients receiving CFTR modulators had higher microbial diversity measures than those not receiving CFTR modulators and were closer (but still significantly lower) in microbial richness to healthy controls. No significant differences in beta diversity were found between the three groups.

This study adds to the growing body of evidentiary support for the use of CFTR modulators in improving airway microbial diversity in CF patients. Future studies with a larger cohort and greater focus on the impact on early initiation of CFTR modulators on microbial diversity and clinical outcomes is necessary.

The study, “Airway microbial diversity is decreased in young children with cystic fibrosis compared to healthy controls but improved with CFTR modulation,” was recently published in Heliyon. The lead author is Andrea Hahn, M.D., M.S., an investigator at the Children’s National Research Institute. Notable authors include Aszia Burrell; Emily Ansusinha; Hollis Chaney, M.D.; Iman Sami, M.D.; Geovanny F. Perez, M.D.; Anastassios C. Koumbourlis, M.D., M.P.H.; Robert McCarter, Sc.D.; and Robert J. Freishtat, M.D., M.P.H..