The language spoken at home and disparities in medical and dental health, access to care, and use of services in US children

Glenn Flores, Sandra C. Tomany-Korman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

163 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE. Fifty-five million Americans speak a non-English primary language at home, but little is known about health disparities for children in non-English-primary-language households. Our study objective was to examine whether disparities in medical and dental health, access to care, and use of services exist for children in non-English-primary-language households. METHODS. The National Survey of Childhood Health was a telephone survey in 2003-2004 of a nationwide sample of parents of 102 353 children 0 to 17 years old. Disparities in medical and oral health and health care were examined for children in a non-English-primary-language household compared with children in English- primary-language households, both in bivariate analyses and in multivariable analyses that adjusted for 8 covariates (child's age, race/ethnicity, and medical or dental insurance coverage, caregiver's highest educational attainment and employment status, number of children and adults in the household, and poverty status). RESULTS. Children in non-English-primary- language households were significantly more likely than children in English-primary-language households to be poor (42% vs 13%) and Latino or Asian/Pacific Islander. Significantly higher proportions of children in non-English-primary-language households were not in excellent/very good health (43% vs 12%), were overweight/at risk for overweight (48% vs 39%), had teeth in fair/poor condition (27% vs 7%), and were uninsured (27% vs 6%), sporadically insured (20% vs 10%), and lacked dental insurance (39% vs 20%). Children in non-English-primary-language households more often had no usual source of medical care (38% vs 13%), made no medical (27% vs 12%) or preventive dental (14% vs 6%) visits in the previous year, and had problems obtaining specialty care (40% vs 23%). Latino and Asian children in non-English-primary-language households had several unique disparities compared with white children in non- English-primary-language households. Almost all disparities persisted in multivari- able analyses. CONCLUSIONS. Compared with children in English-primary-language households, children in non-English-primary-language households experienced multiple disparities in medical and oral health, access to care, and use of services. Pediatrics 2008;121:e1703-e1714.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e1703-e1714
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2008


  • Asians/Pacific islanders
  • Children
  • Communication barriers
  • Disparities
  • Hispanics
  • Language
  • Minorities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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