The rate of avoidable hospitalizations in Washington, D.C., increased from 39.1 per 1,000 adults ages 40 to 64 in 2004 to 43.4 in 2006, and from 8.9 per 1,000 children younger than age 18 to 12.1 during the same period, according to a report released Thursday by RAND, the Washington Post reports.
The report, which involved all district hospitals, was presented at the annual meeting of the District of Columbia Primary Care Association. District interim Health Director Carlos Cano said, "It's very difficult to pin down why it's happening."
Health officials said the number of avoidable hospitalizations began to increase in 2005, mostly as a result of skin infections involving an antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria. However, the Post reports that the 2006 data "suggest that far more is to blame," including an overloaded primary care system, overcrowded emergency departments, potentially sicker patients and higher rates of asthma among children in certain areas of the district.
RAND for several years has been studying the district's health care needs and how they relate to chronic disease, low-income residents and hospital use. The data will be added to a $1.5 million study commissioned by the district Council, which will be used to determine how to allocate $116 million in tobacco settlement funds (Levine, Washington Post, 10/26).