Despite a downward trend in the prevalence of asthma in children, a troubling increase in asthma disparities between minority and non-minority individuals is being observed. The reasons for these disparities are still not well understood. To investigate this observation, researchers in Houston, Texas compared economic, demographic, and environmental data with asthma diagnoses to find possible risk factors for these at-risk minority children.
Demographically, neighborhoods with higher socioeconomic status (SES) in Houston are comprised of a lower percentage of minorities. For example, only 15% of “advantaged” neighborhoods are Hispanic, compared to 60% of “disadvantaged” neighborhoods.
Unsurprisingly, children in “disadvantaged” neighborhoods had more asthma diagnoses than those in middle-class and “advantaged” neighborhoods. Children in “disadvantaged” neighborhoods were also less likely to have private insurance, impacting healthcare access.
Of note were the complicated effects of air pollution on asthma incidence. In “disadvantaged” communities and middle-class and “advantaged” communities, unequal exposure to pollutants was associated with asthma disparities. The researchers speculated this finding to be related to the ability of affluent families to buffer harm from air pollution.
Despite finding that disadvantaged children were exposed to poorer air quality, this study suggests that other inequalities—such as socioeconomic status—are much more likely to impact asthma prevalence in Houston. Thus, while the environmental factor of air quality is still critical, breaking the barriers that low SES children face might be the best initial target for reducing asthma disparities .
Source: Kranjac, A. W., Kimbro, R. T., Denney, J. T., Osiecki, K. M., Moffett, B. S., & Lopez, K. N. (2017). Comprehensive Neighborhood Portraits and Child Asthma Disparities. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 21(7), 1552–1562. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10995-017-2286-z