In more evidence of social determinant of health dynamics, Emory University researchers recently revealed that In the United States, there are persistent racial disparities in asthma prevalence, morbidity and mortality. These disparities can largely be explained by looking at socioeconomic and environmental factors, such as access to healthcare, a nationwide analysis shows. The findings highlight the potential of targeted interventions, such as mobile asthma clinic programs and joint programs with schools where asthma prevalence is high. Asthma is a leading cause of school absence. The analysis was published online Jan. 9 in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Public health researchers have observed that African Americans have a substantially higher rate of emergency hospital visits for asthma and a higher rate of asthma-related death when compared with Caucasians.
“It isn’t clear why asthma outcomes are worse in African American patients. The findings from our study suggest that poorer asthma outcomes are not genetic or biological in nature, but are instead due to a number of socioeconomic and environmental factors that impact asthma care,” says Anne Fitzpatrick, PhD. “These factors can be modified and improved with the right interventions.”
Fitzpatrick is an associate professor of pediatrics and director of the Asthma Clinical Research Program in the Department of Pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine. A team of researchers led by Fitzpatrick analyzed data from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute’s Severe Asthma Research Program, which includes academic medical centers in California, Missouri, Wisconsin, Ohio, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. This study included 579 participants 6 years and older, each observed for one year.
Investigators took participants’ medical histories, surveyed them about how they manage their asthma, and measured their lung function and other asthma biomarkers to gauge the severity of their asthma. Blood samples were also taken to look for sensitization to various allergens.
African American patients were more than twice as likely to visit the emergency department for asthma, the SARP data showed. When the statistics were weighted—based on community and family socioeconomic factors and environmental exposure—the racial differences evened out.
Anne Fitzpatrick, PhD.