Childhood food allergies associated with significant direct medical costs

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1. The overall economic cost of food allergy was estimated at $24.8 billion annually ($4,184 per child) consisting of $4.3 billion in annual direct medical costs and $20.5 billion in annual costs borne by the family. 

Evidence Rating Level: 3 (Average)

Study Rundown: This study aimed to quantify the overall economic impact of food allergy, a condition affecting 8% of US children, by conducting a national survey of caregivers of food allergic children. 1,643 caregivers of children with a current food allergy were surveyed to assess allergy-related direct medical costs and costs borne by the family. The overall economic cost of food allergy was estimated at $24.8 billion annually ($4,184 per child) consisting of $4.3 billion in annual direct medical costs and $20.5 billion in annual costs borne by the family. Given these estimated costs, it appears that food-borne allergies pose a significant financial burden on the US health care system as well as the families with children with food allergies. Results of this study will hopefully help policymakers better understand the economic impact of food allergies on the health care system and families, which may be helpful in allocating federal resources accordingly. Limitations of the study include those inherent to its self-reporting design, which can be exacerbated by misunderstanding of survey questions and inaccurate recall.

Click to read the study, published today in JAMA Pediatrics

Relevant Reading: Estimating the economic burden of food-induced allergic reactions and anaphylaxis in the United States

In-Depth [cross-sectional survey]: 1,643 caregivers of a child with a current food allergy were surveyed between November 28, 2011 and January 26th, 2012 and asked to assess direct medical costs and costs borne by the family. The sample results were subsequently weighted to represent the population of US children with current food allergies. The overall economic cost of food allergy was estimated at $24.8 (95% CI, $20.6-$29.4) billion annually ($4,184 per child), consisting of $4.3 billion in annual direct medical costs and $20.5 billion in annual costs borne by the family. Caregivers reported a willingness to pay $20.8 (95% CI, $15.7- $25.7) billion annually ($3,504) per child, for food allergy treatment.

By Priyanka Vedak and Rif Rahman

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