According to a new study, fifth grade children of black and Latino ethnicities are more likely to experience health disparities.

Prior research has only observed health disparities among teens, but the new study suggests that health disparities are also prevalent among children.

Dr. Mark Schuster, chief of general pediatrics at Boston Children's Hospital and lead study author, conducted the largest study among fifth graders nationwide as a means to detail the health disparities. Researchers chose public schools in metropolitan cities such as Birmingham, Alabama; Houston and Los Angeles. They interviewed children and their parents in order to assess factors ranging from seat-belt use, exercise, obesity, substance abuse and witnessing violence.

Results revealed a child's school along with parent's education and income play a pivotal role in a child's health. Children whose parents have a higher education and high income were more likely to be healthier no matter their ethnicity.

Additionally, Schuster found one in six white children were obese compared to one in three black or Latino children who were obese. Black and Latino children also were less likely to participate in exercise. In general, black and Latino children reported higher rates of poor state of health. Furthermore, black children were more susceptible to drinking alcohol and smoking.

According to Schuster, this study proposes intervention programs targeted at improving children's health should begin earlier as a means to avert disparities.

Rebecca London, a senior researcher of youth health at Stanford University in California, recommends economic support, violence prevention, healthier school meals, health education programs for parents as well as general promotion of education and health insurance are just a few of the support programs that can be implemented to enhance the overall health of children. She also believes there should be a collective effort between health care professionals and educators. However, London does specify this study only represent a portion of the U.S.

This study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.