Asthma Rates Declining Nationally; Rate Leveling Off for Black Youths, Study Finds
The childhood asthma mortality rate in the U.S. is declining, even though the rate of children diagnosed with the disease is "at historically high levels," according to a CDC report released Tuesday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The report -- by Lara Akinbami, a CDC medical officer -- found that after steady increases from 1980 through 1998, overall asthma death rates have declined since 1999 for children of all races ages 17 and younger. Akinbami attributed the decline in the asthma mortality rate to a "change in the way causes of deaths are coded" by CDC, improved medications, increased public awareness of asthma and its dangers, and more children being taken to emergency departments for asthma-related problems. The report also found that the childhood asthma mortality rate is not declining among black children, who are six times as likely as white children to die from the disease. The reason for the lack of declining mortality rate among black children might be because they have a more severe form of the disease, live in more polluted or higher-poverty areas or do not benefit from education and medical advances to control asthma symptoms, the Journal-Constitution reports. The report also found that:
- Puerto Rican children have the highest prevalence of asthma of all racial and ethnic groups and 140% higher than non-Hispanic white children;
- Mexican children have low reported rates;
- Black children were least likely to be treated for asthma during ambulatory care visits and in the emergency department;
- Black children have a 260% higher rate of emergency department visits and a 250% higher hospitalization rate for asthma than white children; and
- Hispanic children were less likely to use ambulatory care and had more ED visits than white children, but far fewer than black children.
According to the study, "Considering the evidence that minority children do not receive the same level and quality of ambulatory health care for asthma, the disparity in ambulatory care use may contribute to the disparities in ED (emergency department) use, hospitalization and death" (Hendrick, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 12/13).
The report is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the report. This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.