Access to Health Care and Food in Children with Food Allergy

Access to health care and food are serious concerns for families managing food allergies. A new study, funded in part by FARE, set out to research whether patients with food allergies experience impaired access to these basic needs—a topic which had not previously been evaluated.

The study, led by Christina B. Johns and Jessica H. Savage and published online by the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice in February 2014, found that families managing food allergies are more likely to face food insecurity and reduced access to health care. Based on data reported by more than 26,000 parents, the researchers’ analysis found that among families managing food
allergies:

  • 21 percent of children had low food security
  • 34 percent reported having problems paying medical bills
  • 4 percent reported not being able to afford needed prescriptions
  • 3 percent reported not being able to afford needed follow-up care
  • 2 percent reported having trouble finding a doctor to see the child

These values were all significantly higher for children with food allergies than for those without. Additionally, there were significant disparities associated with race/ethnicity. The researchers concluded that “parents of nonwhite children with food allergy were significantly more likely to report difficulty with access to care and food.” This study is noteworthy in that it demonstrated disparities in access among families managing food allergies and opens the door to further studies that can help determine whether improvements in access can improve disease outcome.

The authors are affiliated with Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Dr. Savage is the recipient of the 2012 AAAAI/Food Allergy Research & Education Howard Gittis Memorial 3rd/4th Year Fellowship/Junior Faculty Research Award. FARE funds this grant, which is awarded annually to a promising young investigator who is selected by an American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
committee. This award was created in 2008 to attract gifted researchers to the field of food allergy.

This article was originally published in the Spring 2014 issue of FARE’s Food Allergy News. Read more of the newsletter here.