Deaths from respiratory tract infections (RTIs) in children are preventable through timely access to public health and medical interventions. We aimed to assess whether socioeconomic disparities in mortality related to pediatric RTI persisted after accounting for health status at birth.
We compared the prevalence of and risk factors for RTI-related death in singletons aged 28 days to 4 years across Ontario (Canada), Scotland and England (jurisdictions with universal health care) using linked administrative data for 2003–2013. We estimated rates of RTI-related mortality for children living in deprived areas and those born to teenage girls; we estimated both crude rates and those adjusted for health status at birth.
A total of 1 299 240 (Ontario), 547 556 (Scotland) and 3 910 401 (England) children were included in the study. Across all jurisdictions, children born in the most deprived areas experienced the highest rates of RTI-related mortality. After adjustment for high-risk chronic conditions and prematurity, we observed differences in mortality according to area-level deprivation in Ontario and England but not in Scotland. In Ontario, teenage motherhood was also an independent risk factor for RTI-related mortality.
Socioeconomic disparities played a substantial role in child mortality related to RTI in all 3 jurisdictions. Context-specific investigations around the mechanisms of this increased risk and development of programs to address socioeconomic disparities are needed.