Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition. On kidsdata.org, asthma is measured by the percentage of children ages 1-17 whose parents report that their child has been diagnosed with asthma; and the number and rate of asthma hospitalizations per 10,000 children ages 0-4, 5-17, 0-17, and for all ages (children and adults). Asthma hospitalization rates reflect the most severe episodes; most asthmatic children never need to be hospitalized.
Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases among children in the U.S. and a leading cause of hospitalizations and absences from school (1, 2). Asthma rates are particularly high among African American and American Indian/Alaska Native children (1, 2, 3). However, childhood asthma prevalence has been on the rise generally (2).
Asthma rates vary by region depending on many factors, such as demographics, socioeconomics, the environment, physician diagnostic practices, and access to care (1, 2, 4).
Asthma often can be managed with medication, trigger avoidance, and regular medical monitoring (1). However, children with asthma may experience repeated absences from school when their asthma flares up. Children without access to regular medical care are more likely to suffer from serious episodes that may result in trips to the emergency room and even hospitalization (4).
For more information on asthma, see kidsdata.org’s Research & Links section.
Sources for this narrative:
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (EPA). (2008). Children’s environmental health disparities: Black and African American children and asthma. Retrieved from: http://yosemite.epa.gov/ochp/ochpweb.nsf/content/HD_AA_Asthma.htm/$File/HD_AA_Asthma.pdf
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (2013). America’s Children and the Environment, Third Edition. Retrieved from: http://www.epa.gov/ace/
- Brim, S., et al. (2008). Asthma prevalence among U.S. children in underrepresented minority populations: American Indian/Alaska Native, Chinese, Filipino, and Asian Indian. Pediatrics, 122(1), 217-222. Retrieved from: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/122/1/e217.full
- Wolstein, J., et al. (2010). Income disparities in asthma burden and care in California. Los Angeles, CA: UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. Retrieved from: http://healthpolicy.ucla.edu/publications/search/pages/detail.aspx?PubID=45
While asthma can be debilitating, or even life-threatening, it often is a controllable disease. Asthma can be triggered by environmental conditions, such as outdoor air pollution, tobacco smoke, and poor indoor air quality (1). State, local, and school policies that reduce asthma causes and triggers, and that facilitate effective management and treatment of asthma, can have a beneficial effect on asthma rates and health impacts.
According to research and subject experts, policy options that could influence asthma rates, health consequences, and treatment include:
- Ensuring that all children have adequate, accessible, and affordable health care and pharmacy benefits to promote prevention and treatment of asthma (2)
- Enforcing laws and regulations limiting vehicle emissions, agricultural practices that generate dust and particulates, and industrial practices that generate air pollution (3)
- Ensuring that schools have good indoor air quality, and promoting asthma-friendly policies (including asthma education) that help school staff, parents, and students understand asthma management, make it easy for students to manage their asthma at school, and facilitate communication between parents, schools, and health care providers, e.g. evidence-based telemedicine approaches (4)
- Promoting community-wide, integrated interventions to decrease the burden of asthma on high-risk populations; this includes strategies to improve health insurance coverage of the uninsured and underinsured, education and outreach, home visiting; and reduction of asthma triggers in schools, child care centers, homes, and workplaces (2)
- Promoting and funding tobacco control efforts, including restricting access to cigarettes, increasing availability and use of smoking cessation programs, and limiting smoking in multi-unit housing, as smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke harms lung function and can increase asthmatic symptoms (2, 5, 6, 7)
For more policy ideas about asthma, see kidsdata.org's Research & Links section or California Breathing. Also see the topics Hospitalizations and Environmental Health on kidsdata.org.
Sources for this narrative:
- California Department of Health Services. (2007). The burden of asthma in California: A surveillance report. Retrieved from: http://www.californiabreathing.org/phocadownload/asthmaburdenreport.pdf
- California Department of Public Health. (2008). Strategic plan for asthma in California (2008-2012). Retrieved from: http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/caphi/Documents/AsthmaStrategicPlan.5-5-08.pdf
- Salam, M. T., et al. (2008). Recent evidence for adverse effects of residential proximity to traffic sources on asthma. Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine, 14, 3-8. Retrieved from: http://sunscreamer.com/publiccomment/Documents/salam%20mt%20traffic%20asthma%20pulm%20opin%202008.pdf
- Wheeler, L. S., et al. (2006). Managing asthma in schools: Lessons learned and recommendations. Journal of School Health, 76(6), 341-344. Retrieved from: http://www.ashaweb.org/files/public/JOSH_806/Wheelerrecomendations_josh766.pdf
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2006). The health consequences of involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke: A report of the Surgeon General. Retrieved from: http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/secondhandsmoke/report/index.html
- Gold, D. R., et al. (1996). Effects of cigarette smoking on lung function in adolescent boys and girls. New England Journal of Medicine, 335(13), 931-937. Retrieved from: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199609263351304
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2007). Best practices for comprehensive tobacco control programs. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/stateandcommunity/best_practices/pdfs/2007/BestPractices_Complete.pdf
In California, about 14% of children ages 1-17 had been diagnosed with asthma in 2009. At the county/regional level, estimates ranged from about 8% to 31% of children diagnosed with asthma that year. Statewide, the rate of children hospitalized due to asthma generally has declined over the past decade, to 10.9 per 10,000 ages 0-17 in 2011. Asthma hospitalization rates are higher for the youngest children, ages 0-4.