Poor & Black Children Bear the Brunt of Asthma, Research Confirms

More than 6 million children in the United States suffer from asthma. But several new studies paint a startling picture of how this disease impacts especially vulnerable subpopulations: in particular, poor and black children.

Race, Income & Childhood Asthma

study out of Rice University reinforces the disproportionate rate at which black and poor children suffer from asthma.  Researchers found that, of 12,000 children in the Houston area, black children are:

  • 8% more likely to have asthma in poor neighborhoods ($33,900 median household income)
  • 7% more likely in middle-class neighborhoods ($58,100 median household income)
  • 8 % more likely in affluent communities ($100,000+ median household income).

The study also found that:

  • Black children are more likely than their white peers to suffer from asthma.
  • All children, regardless of race, have a higher likelihood of asthma when they live in poor neighborhoods. This includes white children.

A Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC study reiterates the correlation between poverty and asthma.  According to research published in the journal Pediatrics, asthma in children rose 18 percent from 2003 to 2012.  Yet poor children saw a higher jump, roughly 26%.  Poverty also nearly doubles a child with asthma’s likelihood of having a comorbidity.

Childhood Asthma Deaths

Preliminary research from Brigham and Women’s hospital in Atlanta reveals another disturbing trend: black children are six times more likely than their white or Hispanic peers to die from asthma.  The study analyzed data from 2,600 children across the United States who died from asthma between 2003 and 2014.  Of these deaths:

  • 50% occurred in emergency department settings
  • 14% occurred at home
  • 30% in hospital settings.

But in each setting, one factor remained constant – black children were more likely than their peers to die.

Researchers across the studies point to a variety of potentially contributing factors – environmental pollutants and air quality, parents’ education level, family diet, and situations of abuse and neglect.  Either because of, or in addition to, these factors, poor and black children may also struggle to access the health care and medications they need.

Out-of-pocket costs can present particular challenges.  Without constant attention, asthma can lead to life-threatening exacerbations.  Yet high co-pays may deter poor families from purchasing the medications their children need.  In turn, non-adherence can lead to hospitalization and emergency care for the children’s asthma complications.

Read “Improving Access to Respiratory Care” to learn more.

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