Racial Disparity ID'd in Health Behaviors of Fifth-Graders

Adjusting for socioeconomic status and child's school reduces many of these differences

THURSDAY, Aug. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Harmful health-related behaviors are more common among black and Latino fifth-graders than among white fifth-graders, according to a study published in the Aug. 23 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Mark A. Schuster, M.D., Ph.D., from Boston Children's Hospital, and colleagues examined racial differences for 16 health-related behaviors and outcomes among 5,119 randomly selected public-school white, Latino, and black fifth-graders and their parents in three metropolitan areas in the United States.

The researchers found that, for all 16 measures, there were significant differences between black and white children; and for 12 measures, there were differences between Latino and white children. Many of these disparities were reduced after adjustment. For example, using unadjusted data, the rate of witnessing a threat or injury with a gun was significantly higher among blacks and Latinos versus whites, and whites performed vigorous exercise on significantly more days than blacks and Latinos. However, statistical adjustment approximately halved these disparities between blacks and whites and eliminated the disparities between whites and Latinos. The most substantial mediators of racial and ethnic disparities were household income, household highest education level, and the child's school.

"Our findings revealed marked racial and ethnic disparities among fifth-graders across a range of health-related experiences, behaviors, and outcomes, many of which were strongly associated with the child's school and the socioeconomic status of the family," the authors write.

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