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Asthma Disparities: A Disproportionate Burden

2012 May 22

By Alisa Smith

What disease do you think affects one in every five U.S. households, costs the U.S. $50 billion annually in medical expenses, accounts for 10.5 million missed school days every year, causes black children to be hospitalized at twice the rate of white children and to die at four times the rate of white children?

You’re probably thinking: whatever it is, let’s figure out a vaccine quickly.

It is asthma. Anyone can have asthma, but it impacts some more severely than others. Significant disparities, or differences, in asthma exist in racial and ethnic groups. Children from minority groups and children in low-income families are at greater risk for having the disease and once they have it, they are at greater risk of having it more severely.

While we don’t yet have a vaccine or know how to prevent someone from getting asthma, we do have a clear understanding of how to control it. It’s a balancing act: controlling exposure to the things indoors and outdoors that trigger asthma attacks and getting the right medicine and knowing how to take it.

Building awareness is one piece of the nation’s asthma control puzzle. EPA is working hard on many levels to help individuals and communities gain control of asthma. Our website has evidence-based resources that assist kidsparents, caregivers, older adults, child care programs, schools, healthcare providers, health insurers, and community groups.  Each year, over one million people visit our companion website to download easy to read information in English and Spanish.

Another piece of the asthma control puzzle focuses on closing the gap in disparities. Beginning over ten years ago, EPA saw effective work was being done in communities across the country to improve outcomes for kids most severely impacted by asthma. To help health practitioners and asthma programs share their best practices and top questions with one another, EPA launched This site contains the System for Delivering High-Quality Asthma Care and hundreds of effective print and multimedia resources from programs across the country. Each year EPA honors exceptional health plans, health care providers and communities in action with the National Environmental Leadership Award in Asthma Management as a way to celebrate the important contribution these programs are making to close the gap in asthma disparities. To hear from the 2012 Award winners about their best-in-class programs, register for EPA’s live webinar on Wednesday, May 30, 2012, from 1–2 p.m. EDT.

About the author: Alisa Smith, Ph.D., is Acting Director of the Center for Asthma and Schools in the Indoor Environments Division at the U.S. EPA.

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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49 Responses leave one →
  1. May 22, 2012

    I like your presentation on Asthma Disparities and agree with much of this information. You kept my attention throughout the whole article, and that’s a task. Thank you.

  2. May 22, 2012

    Hi Alisa, here in the Caribbean we rarely have dead cause by Asthma but that situation in the USA is unfortunate.

    This is a very thought-provoking article but it must be written.

    Best Regards-,

  3. May 22, 2012

    I never thought that life-threatening asthma. This article helps me understand it more. Thank you

  4. May 23, 2012

    As a person who has lived lifelong with asthma I wish there was a better vaccine than the influenza vaccine which is known as the flu shot. Some people believe that it is effective for asthma but it never has for me.

  5. May 23, 2012

    Everyone who has Asthama should exercise very regularly.

  6. May 23, 2012

    thx for article.

  7. May 23, 2012

    “About 10 years ago, doctors have diagnosed my son as having asthma and I have spent so much on the inhalers, medications, etc, and sleepless nights when the attacks occurred. Then a friend referred us to a very experienced doctor who helped my son overcome his asthma. He doesn’t have asthma anymore. Maybe he was misdiagnosed? I don’t know. But the friend who referred us to the doctor also had his son ‘misdiagnosed’ before.”

  8. May 23, 2012

    I also have Severe asthma, I’m only 19. I personally, find it difficult to sleep at night sometimes when it comes to my Asthma, I’m on the Ventolin inhaler, but recently been put on a stronger inhaler called Seretide which now lasts me up to 12 hours. I was introduced to a Vaccine a while back where i can take a Vaccine rather than inhaler, i think it’s something new they are bringing out around here.

    Asthma does tend to run in the family too, a lot of my family members seem to also have it, i find having a steamy shower helps my Asthma.

    Great Post!

  9. May 23, 2012

    Very good post about asthma. Every one should care about it In india there is lot of patient of asthma. Thanks for This Post

  10. May 23, 2012

    thx for article.

  11. May 23, 2012

    The cost of medical expenses mentioned is absolutely unbelievable, considering how lightly we take it when we hear someone has this disease.

  12. Teresa permalink
    May 24, 2012

    Thanks Alisa for the article, can you share the Doctor’s information and what state they are in; maybe they have affiliates/ practicing colleagues in Houston Texas.

  13. May 25, 2012

    Thank you for sharing

  14. May 28, 2012

    I read your article with interest. My friends son has brittle asthma and when he was born the doctors said he would not live past 23. He is 27 now and has almost died several times. The more everyone knows about asthma the more I hope can be done to make it a more manageable condition.

  15. May 28, 2012

    whether or not lined documentation translated into other languages?

  16. May 29, 2012

    This article helps me to understand more affects of disease …thx

  17. May 29, 2012

    thank you so much for good article.

  18. May 30, 2012

    Organization like EPA should have a lot of activities in order to build awareness on Asthma related topics on a large scale. Coming from a sister and nephew with asthma i must say asthma is a silent killer not only for the carrier but also for the love ones of those who possess it.

  19. May 31, 2012

    Thank you for sharing these facts. Great info. I’m also very interested in the role that diet plays in reducing severity. Looking forward to hearing more about a partnership with those on the nutrition side as well.

  20. May 31, 2012

    great knowledge to sharing… i will following to see other article. thanks

  21. June 2, 2012

    Asthma is a burden in the true sense of the term.I have seen my grandpa suffering from the problem since my childhood.The problem seems to be acute during winter.Oh.God! Do something with these asthma patients.

  22. June 2, 2012

    Thanks for your sharing.. I agree with your thought..

  23. June 5, 2012

    Very nice post as it provides so much information and really going to help in daily life. Thanks for such a wonderful post.

  24. June 5, 2012

    Hi.I have been diagnosed with early asthma symptoms some 8 years ago. I have stopped smoking literally next day, I’m trying to keep it fit and exercise regularly. My asthma went to sleep and I hope to never wake it up again. Shortness of breathe was probably the worst experience in my life.

  25. June 13, 2012

    thx for the article

  26. June 14, 2012

    This post is really helpful.Thanks for sharing!

  27. July 21, 2012

    You have some really great information in this article, and you bring up a really great point. As it is with a number of other conditions, there needs to be more awareness of asthma and what it can do. For instance, I only recently learned that there is a diet which can help manage the symptoms of asthma. I only wonder how many people are currently aware of this.

  28. August 7, 2012

    i really like this post. Thanks for sharing!

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    August 17, 2012

    Great article. Thank for posting.

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    August 17, 2012

    Really helpful for me THX.

  31. sbo permalink
    August 26, 2012

    I also have Severe asthma, I’m only 19. I personally, find it difficult to sleep at night sometimes when it comes to my Asthma, I’m on the Ventolin inhaler…

  32. Real estate anandmahal permalink
    September 24, 2012

    very good post about asthma..i like this article

  33. Mira Johnson permalink
    September 30, 2012

    Fine information, many thanks to the author. It is puzzling to me now, but in general, the usefulness and significance is overwhelming. Very much thanks again and good luck!

  34. Sports Probe permalink
    November 9, 2012

    nice post..

  35. Paul permalink
    January 5, 2013

    Luchando por el Aire: The Burden of Asthma on Hispanics is part of the American Lung Association’s Disparities in Lung Health Series of reports, which takes an in-depth look at a specific problem in a specific community. The Spanish title translates as “fighting for air,” an experience that is all too common among Hispanics with asthma. Compared to non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics with asthma are less likely to be in the care of a regular doctor or clinic; less likely to be prescribed appropriate medicines; less likely to have access to specialized care; and more likely to end up being treated in the emergency department or hospitalized in a crisis. This report presents an overview of research into the complex biological, environmental, political and cultural factors that increase the burden of asthma on Hispanics.
    - Paul :)

  36. Stephen Marks permalink
    February 8, 2013

    Glad to hear that new therapies are being developed for asthma. I had this condition when I was younger, but luckily I was able to grow out of it over time. However, this is obviously not the case for everyone, and sudden asthma attacks can be deadly. In order to continue to develop better treatments for this medical condition, we need people to continue to take part in future asthma clinical trials. This research enables health care providers with the ability to continue to provide the best quality of care.

  37. angelina permalink
    June 22, 2013

    Children should take care of asthmatic troubles and should be kept at healthy weight

  38. asim permalink
    July 8, 2013

    My son has been suffering from chronic asthma since childhood. An important preventive measure that I take is installing air purifiers in his room. Allergens and air contaminants can induce an asthma bout. Air purifiers aid to keep the room clean and free of impurities.

  39. james permalink
    July 9, 2013

    Being an asthmatic, I swear by the ginseng herb and take it every day. It’s a valuable herb with anti-inflammatory properties that keeps the lungs dilated and facilitates unobstructed breathing.

  40. sofia permalink
    July 10, 2013

    Home remedies are indeed helpful, but being an asthma patient I would also recommend doing some exercises. Staying in good health provides better resistance from asthma episodes. However, don’t overdo or force your body beyond its limit. Begin with light exercises.

  41. truongviet permalink
    August 27, 2013

    This article helps me understand it more. Thank you for sharing.

  42. Krissie permalink
    September 27, 2013

    although the post seems outdated but the information is applicable on the current condition of our country. due to the air pollution, the children which has asthma keeps getting worse and it is only appropriate to build awareness when it comes to asthma since it does not kill you instantly but it plans to make you suffer for a long time.

  43. Muhammad Hasnain permalink
    November 28, 2014

    This post is really helpful.Thanks for sharing!

  44. Muhammad Hasnain permalink
    November 28, 2014

    This post is really helpful.Thanks for sharing! .approved

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    December 9, 2014

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