Background: The delivery of emergency medical services (EMS) is a resource-intensive process, and prior studies suggest that EMS utilization in children may vary by socioeconomic status. The Child Opportunity Index (COI) provides a multidimensional measure of neighborhood-level resources and conditions that affect the health of children. We evaluated EMS utilization and measures of acuity among children by COI.Methods: We performed a cross-sectional study using encounters for patients less than 18 years of age from 10,067 EMS agencies in 47 US states and territories contributing to the National Emergency Medical Services Information System 2019 dataset. We compared patient demographics, EMS encounter characteristics, and care provided to children stratified by ZIP code using the COI 2.0.Results: We included 1,293,038 EMS encounters (median age 10 years, IQR 3-15 years). The distributions of encounters in the five tiers of COI were 30.6%, 20.1%, 18.0%, 16.3% and 15.1%, (from Very Low to Very High, respectively). The distribution of diagnoses between groups was similar. Most measures of EMS acuity/resource use were similar between groups, including non-transport status, cardiac arrest, vital sign abnormalities, and EMS-administered procedures and medications. Among children with respiratory-related encounters, children in the Very Low group had a greater need for nebulized medications (26.4% vs 18.3% in Very High COI children). Among children with trauma, a lower proportion in the Very Low group were given analgesia (4.0% vs 7.4% in the Very High group), though pain scores were similar in all groups.Conclusion: Pediatric EMS encounters from lower COI neighborhoods occur more frequently relative to encounters from higher COI neighborhoods. Despite these differences, children from lower COI strata generally have similar encounter characteristics to those in other COI strata, suggestive of a greater number of true out-of-hospital emergencies among children from these areas. Notable differences in care included use of respiratory medication to children with respiratory diagnoses, and administration of pain medication to children with trauma.

DOI 10.1080/10903127.2022.2076268