Low-income Ontario children with diabetes faring better than their Californian counterparts
TORONTO, DECMEBER 8, 2016 — Low-income children with Type 1 diabetes in Ontario are getting more of the recommended preventative care visits and have fewer hospitalizations than similar children in California, according to a new study from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and the Centre for Policy, Outcomes, and Prevention, Stanford University.
In the study, published today in CMAJ Open, the researchers examined the health system models in Ontario and California to understand which system better serves the needs of low-income children with diabetes. The system in Ontario, with its organized provincial diabetes care network including generalists (e.g., family physicians and general pediatricians) was compared with that of California, an American model with targeted support services for children from low-income families.
The researchers found that more California children received their regular preventive care from sub-specialist paediatric endocrinologists, while most Ontario children received this care from generalists but visit rates were significantly different.
“We found that 76 per cent of low-income Ontario children were getting at least two preventive care visits per year, compared to only 65 per cent of low-income children in California. This may be because generalists were closer and more easily accessible than pediatric endocrinologists, who are in much shorter supply and tend to be located in big cities,” says Dr. Astrid Guttmann, senior author on the study, Chief Science Officer at ICES and a Staff Paediatrician and Senior Associate Scientist at SickKids.
International guidelines recommend children with diabetes have at least two to four preventive outpatient visits per year in order to closely monitor blood sugar control and to get needed screening tests. These visits help prevent the life-threatening complications of diabetes.
“We also found rates of life-threatening diabetes complications were slightly lower in low-income children in Ontario compared with California. This reassures us that generalists providing routine, preventive care for children with diabetes is likely a safe model of care when they are supported by multi-disciplinary care teams and have backup from centers with subspecialist pediatric endocrinologists” says Dr. Suni Kaiser, author of the study and Assistant Professor, University of California, in San Francisco.
But according to the researchers, there are gaps in the Ontario system. Low-income Ontario children are three times more likely than higher income Ontario children to be hospitalized for a complication related to their disease (seven versus 2.5 hospitalizations for every 100 children per year).
“While it’s reassuring that our low-income children are doing the same or better than low-income children in California, we do have concerns within our own system,” says Guttmann. “Our findings suggest that there is an important equity gap in terms of diabetes outcomes by socioeconomic status but unrelated to the health care system organization.”
“Health care for children with diabetes mellitus in low-income families: a population-based cohort study of health systems in Ontario and California,” was published today in CMAJ Open.