Asthma remains a critical public health challenge – nearly 25 million people in the U.S. have asthma, including 7 million children. But what is perhaps even more alarming is how asthma disproportionately affects minority and disadvantaged children. Among children with asthma, black and Hispanic children are twice as likely to be hospitalized and black children over 4 times more likely to die from asthma than white children. In addition, minority children are less likely than white children to have been prescribed asthma medications.
The causes of asthma disparities are not yet fully understood, but are likely a result of a variety of factors including genetics, environmental exposures, access to programs and policies that influence the control of asthma, and socioeconomic factors, such as housing quality and family and community social supports.
EPA is on the front lines of the fight against asthma disparities and I’m excited about the work we’re doing. For example, we’re supporting community-based asthma programs in Puerto Rico that specifically target improving school environments for children in districts throughout the territory.
EPA is also working with other agencies to develop a Federal Action Plan to Reduce Asthma Disparities. This includes identifying immediate actions that we can take in order to better leverage our collective assets across agencies to reduce asthma disparities.
EPA’s Communities in Action National Asthma Forum brings national, state and community level asthma experts and professionals together from across the country to share their experiences, knowledge and best practices about providing successful asthma programming in the community. This event offers an opportunity like no other to openly discuss barriers and challenges impacting underserved populations, as well as to get advice from others in the field who have found success. This year’s National Asthma Forum is taking place in Washington, DC, June 9-10. It’s really a can’t-miss opportunity. Also, AsthmaCommunityNetwork.org is another great place to exchange ideas and knowledge about health disparities with asthma professionals.
There is still much to understand about how to prevent asthma and tailor interventions to serve disproportionately impacted populations, but every day we get a little closer to finding the solutions.
About the Author: Alisa Smith is a biologist with the Indoor Environments Division’s Asthma Education and Outreach Program EPA’s Office Air and Radiation.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.