AN UNWRITTEN RULE regarding adolescent health care is that one should never assume that what is true for adults or children will also hold true for adolescents. Unfortunately, in one dimension of health care, adolescents may not be so different from other age groups. Although the limited data presented by Elster et al1 in this issue of the ARCHIVES preclude any definitive conclusions, they suggest that teenagers of racial and ethnic minority backgrounds experience disparities in health care. In a systematic review of the literature, Elster and colleagues found that according to the majority of methodologically sound studies, African American youths received fewer primary care and mental health services than white youths. Comparisons between white and Latino youths yielded fewer differences than between white and African American youths, but when differences were noted, Latino youths also received fewer services. Several large studies indicate that after controlling for socioeconomic status, the prevalence of mental health disorders is the same among all 3 groups of youths; therefore, the observed differences cannot be attributed to differential need. Although Elster and colleagues appropriately call for more research in this area, we would not be terribly surprised if these preliminary data are confirmed.
Joffe A. Eliminating Health Care Disparities Is Good for Us All. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2003;157(9):850-851. doi:10.1001/archpedi.157.9.850