BACKGROUND: Despite the increased policy attention on ethnic health inequities since the COVID-19 pandemic, research on ethnicity and healthcare utilisation in children has largely been overlooked. OBJECTIVES: This scoping review aimed to describe and appraise the quantitative evidence on ethnic differences (unequal) and inequities (unequal, unfair and disproportionate to healthcare needs) in paediatric healthcare utilisation in the UK 2001-2021. METHODS: We searched Embase, Medline and grey literature sources and mapped the number of studies that found differences and inequities by ethnic group and healthcare utilisation outcome. We summarised the distribution of studies across various methodological parameters. RESULTS: The majority of the 61 included studies (n=54, 89%) identified ethnic differences or inequities in paediatric healthcare utilisation, though inequities were examined in fewer than half of studies (n=27, 44%). These studies mostly focused on primary and preventive care, and depending on whether ethnicity data were aggregated or disaggregated, findings were sometimes conflicting. Emergency and outpatient care were understudied, as were health conditions besides mental health and infectious disease. Studies used a range of ethnicity classification systems and lacked the use of theoretical frameworks. Children's ethnicity was often the explanatory factor of interest while parent/caregiver ethnicity was largely overlooked. DISCUSSION: While the current evidence base can assist policy makers to identify inequities in paediatric healthcare utilisation among certain ethnic groups, we outline recommendations to improve the validity, generalisability and comparability of research to better understand and thereby act on ethnic inequities in paediatric healthcare.
Arch Dis Child
child health, health services research, healthcare disparities, paediatrics