Minorities and Asthma

Nearly 10 years ago, African-Americans were three to four times more likely than Caucasians to be hospitalized for asthma, and were four to six times more likely to die from this disease. Research has shown that African-American children die from asthma at a higher rate than other children, and that asthma is the most common chronic disease in children, affecting more than 4 million in the United States . In addition, allergies and other illnesses affect minorities at a much higher rate. Unfortunately, despite improved medications, technological advances in equipment and testing, and increased educational and support resources, African-Americans, Hispanics and the underserved are still more likely to suffer and die from asthma and other illnesses at a disproportionately higher rate.

The racial differences in asthma prevalence, morbidity and mortality among minorities are highly correlated with poverty, urban air quality, indoor allergens, lack of patient and physician education, inadequate medical care, misuse of medications and lack of available resources in communities where they live. A recent study, conducted in the state of Maryland , showed that the issue appears to be less related to the incidence of asthma based on race and more related to socio-economic situations and environmental exposures.

These increasing disparities in health care and in the occurrence of this disease among African-Americans and other ethnic groups are a great cause for concern, attention and action. Minority children and adults who live in inner cities or urban areas are those most affected and are those who least likely will receive help.

While various studies have researched treatment of asthmatic African-Americans, a recent study conducted by medical researchers at Johns Hopkins stated that asthmatic African-Americans receive less health care than Caucasians. This, they said, may be a primary reason African-Americans are more likely to have more severe asthma symptoms. Results of this same study which involved 5,062 adults, also reported that only 38 percent of African-Americans stated that they received enough information about how to avoid asthma triggers compared to 54 percent of whites who said they received adequate information. On average, 41 percent of Caucasians were seen by asthma specialists as compared to only 28 percent of African-Americans.

It is evident that asthma is a public health emergency that must be addressed. It is vital to help people with asthma understand that there is relief through current methods of diagnosing and managing the disease and that it is important to seek medical help and direction. The National Medical Association is committed to finding ways to address and eliminate racial, ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in asthma care, diagnosis, and death.