Children hospitalized longer when parents aren't fluent in English

Children hospitalized for infections were more likely to spend more time in the hospital and were less likely to receive home healthcare referrals if their parents or main caregivers had difficulty speaking English, a new study reports in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

In a nine-year study (between 2000 and 2008), nearly 1,300 children whose parents or caregivers were determined to have limited English proficiency were found to have spent at least 60 percent more time in the hospital when compared to children whose parents/caregivers spoke fluently, said study author Michael Levas, MD, and and his colleagues from Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, Mo.

Overall, most of the parents and caregivers observed by the researchers--nearly 97 percent--were proficient in English. The 3 percent who were not were more likely to be Latino and either uninsured or insured by Medicaid for both comparisons.

The relative length of stay for children whose parents/caretakers were not proficient in English was calculated at 1.6 times that of those whose parents were fluent. The relative length of stay appeared to be higher for those covered by Medicaid rather than private insurance; those without a primary care physician; those who did not receive home healthcare; or those who had a comorbid condition in addition to the infection.

The researchers also found that additional time in the hospital is could be costly: Although no formal calculations were performed, they said the average daily cost for an inpatient bed at their hospital was about $2,500. This means that given that the median stay was about four days, that suggests that parents with poor English proficiency could faced extra costs of about $6,000.

For more information:
- see the Archives abstract
- read the MedPage Today article