Food allergies disproportionately impact low-income, non-White families for a wide variety of complex, intersectional reasons.
The presence of food allergies is increasingly common in children and is associated with a significant financial and psychological burden on pediatric patients and their families. The increasing trend of allergies has been pervasive for all children, but the impact can be disproportionately felt in minority populations. This study, published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, analyzed the current literature on health disparities in the prevalence, diagnosis, and management of pediatric food allergies, and discusses possible interventions that can mitigate these disparities. On the basis of this literature, key ideas and intervention opportunities are summarized.
The health disparities present in pediatric populations with food allergies vary, from non-White children being less likely to have access to an epinephrine autoinjector, to a lower rate of representation in clinical trials of immunotherapeutic methods. Some food allergies can result in significant financial implications for families, and about 21% of families with food allergies are food insecure. Access to allergen-free foods is limited among federal assistance programs and food pantries, which can mitigate this effect. Other causes of disparity include a lower rate of allergen introduction in families of color, as well as the lack of readiness in schools with a higher proportion of non-White students to address allergy-related issues.
The authors conclude that the consequences of limited access to allergen-free food options are far-reaching, and increasing access to these foods in food-insecure populations is a key intervention strategy. Other critical intervention areas identified in the study include the consistency of access to care, policy-based attention to food insecurity, and creating a medical workforce that represents the population it serves and providing them with information about issues that the population may be facing.
Tepler, E., Wong, K. H., & Soffer, G. K. (2022). Health disparities in pediatric food allergy. Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, 129(4), 417-423. doi:10.1016/j.anai.2022.04.022