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Empirical validation of the “Pediatric Asthma Hospitalization Rate” indicator

Lorenza Luciano1, Jacopo Lenzi1, Kathryn Mack McDonald2, Simona Rosa1, Gianfranco Damiani3, Giovanni Corsello4 and Maria Pia Fantini1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biomedical and Neuromotor Sciences, Alma Mater Studiorum, University of Bologna, Via San Giacomo 12, Bologna 40126, Italy

2 Center for Health Policy/Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research, Stanford University, Stanford, USA

3 Institute of Hygiene, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Rome, Italy

4 Department of Sciences for Health Promotion and Mother and Child Care, University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy

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Italian Journal of Pediatrics 2014, 40:7  doi:10.1186/1824-7288-40-7

Published: 21 January 2014



Quality assessment in pediatric care has recently gained momentum. Although many of the approaches to indicator development are similar regardless of the population of interest, few nationwide sets of indicators specifically designed for assessment of primary care of children exist. We performed an empirical analysis of the validity of “Pediatric Asthma Hospitalization Rate” indicator under the assumption that lower admission rates are associated with better performance of primary health care.


The validity of “Pediatric Asthma Hospitalization Rate” indicator proposed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in the Italian context was investigated with a focus on selection of diagnostic codes, hospitalization type, and risk adjustment. Seasonality and regional variability of hospitalization rates for asthma were analyzed for Italian children aged 2–17 years discharged between January 1, 2009, and December 31, 2011 using the hospital discharge records database. Specific rates were computed for age classes: 2–4, 5–9, 10–14, 15–17 years.


In the years 2009–2011 the number of pediatric hospitalizations for asthma was 14,389 (average annual rate: 0.52 per 1,000) with a large variability across regions. In children aged 2–4 years, the risk of hospitalization for asthma was 14 times higher than in adolescents, then it dropped to 4 in 5- to 9-year-olds and to 1.1 in 10- to 14-year-olds. The inclusion of diagnoses of bronchitis revealed that asthma and bronchitis are equally represented as causes of hospital admissions and have a similar seasonality in preschool children, while older age groups experience hospital admissions mainly in spring and fall, this pattern being consistent with a diagnosis of atopic asthma. Rates of day hospital admissions for asthma were up to 5 times higher than the national average in Liguria and some Southern regions, and close to zero in some Northern regions.


The patterns of hospitalization for pediatric asthma in Italy showed that at least two different indicators are needed to measure accurately the quality of care provided to children. The candidate indicators should also include day hospital admissions to better assess accessibility. Future evaluation by a structured clinical panel review at the national level might be helpful to refine indicator definitions and risk groupings, to determine appropriate application for such measures, and to make recommendations to policy makers.

Health services research; Quality of care; Quality indicators; Pediatrics; Asthma