Black and Latino schoolchildren in the United States have “substantial inequalities” in their health compared with whites, according to a study published today in the magazine ‘ New England Journal of Medicine’.

The research, funded by the Center for Disease Prevention and Control, led at Children’s Hospital in Boston, and focused on the socio-economic conditions and health risks of children in the fifth school year in different regions of the country.

The study found that the children of all ethnic groups have better health if their parents have higher education and higher income, or if they have had the advantage of attending certain schools.

Although white children are more likely to have these advantages than blacks or latinos, when compared to children with similar advantages they found differences by ethnic group in most of the health indicators were minimal or non-existent.

“We found wide differences among white children, on the one hand, and blacks and latinos on the other, already in the fifth grade of the school,” said Mark Schuster, Director of General Pediatrics at the children’s Hospital in Boston, who led the team that carried out the study.

Between 2004 and 2006, researchers interviewed 5,000 boys and girls aged 10 and 11 years, and their families in Birmingham, Houston, and Los Angeles.

The results emphasize the role that they can play schools, and income and education of the family, in health inequalities.

“When we look in more detail we found that factors such as the school which the child attends, family income and level of education of parents were strongly linked with the health of children,” added Schuster.

Researchers used as reference sixteen important indicators related to health, and between those who reflect inequalities found that black children are four times more likely, and latinos twice more likely than whites to be witnesses of a threat or injury with a firearm.

They also found black children are more likely to smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol than whites and latinos, while obesity rates are nearly twice as high among black and Latino children than among whites.

The black and Latino children are less likely than whites to undertake physical exercise regulate.

Latinos and blacks are far more likely than whites to experience discrimination either due to their ethnic group, their weight, or the level of family income.

The study indicates that these inequalities, which have already been extensively studied among adolescents, are already present at earlier ages and that programs and interventions can reduce the differences in the health of children.

“The significant disparities in the behavior and experiences that are health concern are already present in the primary school,” said Schuster.