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Health Disparities and Asthma

2010 May 6

As I was preparing for an interview for Spanish language radio on asthma awareness, I came across some worrisome statistics. There is a higher incidence of asthma among poor and minority children, particularly those of African American descent and Puerto Rican origin. In fact, Puerto Rican children (born on the Island or the mainland) have the highest rates of asthma at 20% while Mexican-American children have a 7% rate of asthma. Those statistics made me think of my own childhood. Growing up in Puerto Rico, I remember having relatives and friends who had asthma. I recall their stories of sleepless nights being unable to breathe. However, when I went to college on the mainland, I don’t remember any of my friends every mentioning anything about asthma. Now that I look back, the contrast is striking.

Asthma is a chronic pulmonary disease affecting 23 million people in the United States. This disease affects the quality of life of asthma patients and, if not managed correctly, it can be life-threatening. Whether it’s due to health illiteracy or lack of health care, some minority asthma patients do not always seek adequate care in a timely fashion. All too often, these patients resort to emergency rooms with full fledged asthma attacks, attacks that could have been prevented with proper asthma care. Furthermore, health disparities become even more evident when we talk about deaths due to asthma. For example, African-American children have a 500% higher mortality rate from asthma as compared with Caucasian children.

EPA has made an effort to educate the public on the environmental triggers that can trigger asthma attacks. These environmental triggers in indoor surroundings may include secondhand smoke, dust mites, cockroaches, pet fur or dander, household pests, mold, to name a few. Outdoor triggers include high levels of air pollution and pollen. It’s important to talk to your physician to learn what triggers your asthma attacks. If you or your child has asthma, ask your doctor to help create an Asthma Action Plan to prevent asthma attacks. Furthermore, eliminate potential asthma triggers from your home. With increased awareness, asthma patients and their families should be able to manage the disease.

To learn more successful approaches to asthma care, join community leaders and policy makers at the 2010 National Asthma Forum in Washington, DC next month.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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8 Responses leave one →
  1. Madalene permalink
    May 6, 2010

    Thanks for the article on this timely subject. Asthma is a debilitating condition for children and appropriate care is critical.

    Here’s another useful resource on asthma prevalence among different categories of age, race, and gender:

  2. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    May 6, 2010

    Asthma is a major concern in the disability communihty because so many disabled persons have asthma. Many are low income, too, and so they have to live where rents are less. That usually means living near freeways, rail yards, truck terminals, and ports. And these activities produce a lot of diesel particulates into the air that is a major health concern in air pollution. Chemcal Exposures maybe another source of the asthma problem. People First, California, Orange County Chapter will host a Community Conversation on Chemical Exposures and what might be done to reduce them shortly. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  3. Sam Rubanga permalink
    May 7, 2010

    Where wwe live on this planet, especially in Africa, because of poverty are inevitably in danger of all sort diseases related to life style, etc. We get relieved by reading some of this useful article from you. Thanks!

  4. Asthma permalink
    May 7, 2010

    I have learned a lot about asthma, I know a little about it. But after reading this article I am more aware and more consciousness about my 1 year old son. He has been wheezing for a couple of days but am not sure if it asthma he has been a very healthy baby since he was born. And so that why am not sure if it is asthma or not but I didn’t know that other things besides dust and pet fur and dander caused the attacks.

  5. Judy Lance permalink
    May 8, 2010

    I myself is suffering from asthma. I was told it was hereditary, so tracing my family I think I have from my grandma, she died with it. Though my case is not that chronic as I can only suffer from it when I am totally stressed out. I do a lot of exercise so that I should have a strong health fighting it.


  6. Lina-EPA permalink*
    May 10, 2010

    Yes, asthma is a chronic disease. With proper care, asthmatics still may enjoy quality of life and outdoor activities as well.

  7. Karl permalink
    September 15, 2010

    I have asthma and noticed that I’ve been able to
    breath deeper with advair but then when i don’t take I breathe
    even worse than before. I tried a product called protandim
    and have been able to draw deeper breaths because of it and
    have heard the same from others who don’t even have asthma

    ABC primetime even did an investigative
    resport on the product.

  8. latoya permalink
    September 21, 2010

    Thanks for the info about asthma, I do not suffer with it but I have a friend who does. She recently found something that helps her attacks tremendously.

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