Prevalence of Asthma by Race

By Ryan S.

The prevalence of asthma in the general population has steadily risen over time. From only 3 percent in 1980 to almost 9 percent of the total United States population in 2012, it’s an issue that deserves attention. Within this group, there are differences based on age, gender, occupation, socioeconomic status, and race/ethnicity. Though asthma seems like a fairly mild medical concern, it can be dangerous. In 2012 alone, there were 1,750,000 emergency department visits, 439,000 hospitalizations, and 3,400 deaths. These numbers are unexpected, though they shouldn’t be once we realize that there were well over 25 million individuals living with asthma in 2012.

Once we examine the demographic makeup of those live that with asthma, minority disparities become clear. For both adults and children, African Americans made up the largest percentage, though they were far more over-represented during youth. Black children made up about 32 percent of all children with asthma, while white and Hispanic children both made up about 17 percent of that group. Those percentages are extremely disproportionate to the general population of the US, in which both white and Hispanic residents outnumber blacks. These rates level out over time, though blacks continue to have slightly higher rates of asthma during adulthood. Furthermore, as of 2010, 3 times as many blacks than whites were hospitalized for asthma and 2 times as many blacks as whites died from asthma-related issues between 1999 and 2010.

*Based on 2008 rates of education

Clearly, African Americans have a much higher likelihood of struggling with asthma. Excluding Puerto Ricans, Blacks have the highest rates of having asthma, being hospitalized, having persistent issues throughout one’s life, and dying from breathing issues in the United States. Though it’s not likely to be fatal, asthma can have a substantial impact on lifestyle day to day. Because of this, it’s very important to recognize the source of the issue and hopefully combat it. Because Black people appear to be especially susceptible to asthma, notable efforts have been made to fix the issue. Courses that teach people to manage the effects of asthma seem to be the most helpful. Not a lot is known about what causes asthma other than that it is not caused because of genetic differences, so little is known about prevention. In the mean time, managing its effects is all we can do. The educational goal of 14.5 percent has not been met, but efforts to reach black patients specifically have been relatively successful. Though rates are still measurably higher for black communities, for now we can only continue educating patients about personal care.

Other inequalities exist between minority groups regarding the prevalence of asthma, but the high rates of life-long struggle with the condition, hospitalizations, and deaths among blacks are the most notable. Other disparities include higher rates of asthma and hospitalization among women, the very young and old, and the poor — who had higher rates of asthma within each racial/ethnic group. These are all important realities and they must all be addressed. However, we can only take them on one at a time, focusing on each cause and then creating a tailored treatment.


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