Objectives To examine whether self reported health status and use of health services varies in children of different social class and ethnic group.
Design Cross sectional study from the 1999 health survey for England.
Subjects 6648 children and young adults aged 2-20 years.
Setting Private households in England.
Main outcome measures Proportion of children (or their parents) reporting episodes of acute illness in the preceding fortnight and prevalence of self reported longstanding illness. Proportion reporting specific illnesses. Proportion reporting that they had consulted a general practitioner in the preceding fortnight, attended hospital outpatient departments in the three preceding months, or been admitted to hospital in the preceding year.
Results Large socioeconomic differences were observed between ethnic subgroups; a higher proportion of Afro-Caribbean, Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi children belonged to lower social classes than the general population. The proportion of children and young adults reporting acute illnesses in the preceding two weeks was lower in Bangladeshi and Chinese subgroups (odds ratio 0.41, 95% confidence interval 0.27 to 0.61 and 0.46, 0.28 to 0.77, respectively) than in the general population. Longstanding illnesses was less common in Bangladeshi and Pakistani children (0.52, 0.40 to 0.67 and 0.57, 0.46 to 0.70) than in the general population. Irish and Afro-Caribbean children reported the highest prevalence of asthma (19.5% and 17.7%) and Bangladeshi children the lowest (8.2%). A higher proportion of Afro-Caribbean children reported major injuries than the general population (11.0% v 10.0%), and children from all Asian subgroups reported fewer major and minor injuries than the general population. Indian and Pakistani children were more likely to have consulted their general practitioner in the preceding fortnight than the general population (1.86, 1.35 to 2.57 and 1.51, 1.13 to 2.01, respectively). Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Chinese children were less likely to have attended outpatient departments in the preceding three months. No significant differences were found between ethnic groups in the admission of inpatients to hospitals. Acute and chronic illness were the best predictors of children's use of health services. Social classes did not differ in self reported prevalence of treated infections, major injuries, or minor injuries, and no socioeconomic differences were seen in the use of primary and secondary healthcare services.
Conclusions Children's use of health services reflected health status rather than ethnic group or socioeconomic status, implying that equity of access has been partly achieved, although reasons why children from ethnic minority groups are able to access primary care but receive less secondary care need to be investigated.
In the 1970s and 1980s, differentials in childhood mortality widened, such that death rates in children from social classes IV and V were up to five times higher …