Inuit children have the highest rate of hospital admission for Lower respiratory tract infections (LRTIs) globally, but new research shows that lowering risk factors though public health interventions and an enhanced immunization program could improve health for Inuit children and lower health care costs significantly.
The first-of-its-kind case control research was conducted by Dr. Anna Banerji, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and researcher at St. Michael's Hospital.
Respiratory infections are the leading cause for admission, medical evacuation and expenditure for Inuit children in the health care system and can result in serious health complications for those affected.
Dr. Banerji's key findings on the risk factors that contribute to LRTIs among Inuit children include:
Infants of mothers who smoked during pregnancy were four times more likely to be admitted for LRTI
Inuit infants were four times more likely to be admitted for LRTI than mixed or non-Inuit infants. It was not determined if this was a result of genetic factors or socio-economic factors
Overcrowded living conditions increased the risk of admission by 2.5 times
Living in a rural community without a hospital increased risk of admission by 2.7 times
Prematurity was not associated with an increased risk of admission
Infants who were not breast-fed were 3.6 times more likely to be admitted for LRTI
Infants who were custom adopted had 4.4 times the risk
Dr. Banerji also conducted a cost analysis by age and location that compared the costs of administering Palivisumab prophylaxis vaccine, an antibody approved for the prevention of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) – the most common cause of lower respiratory tract infections. The vaccine is used only for prevention and is usually a monthly injection during RSV season.
The results demonstrated that by immunizing rural Inuit infants with the vaccine, the health care system could save money – up to $8,000 per admission avoided. The analysis concludes that preventative measures in infancy can both improve the health of children and result in a significant cost savings for the health-care system.
Source : St. Michael's Hospital