Asthma Fast Facts:
- Over 9 million U.S. children under 18 years of age (13%) have ever been diagnosed with asthma, and 6.5 million children (9%) still have asthma.
- Men are more likely to have ever been diagnosed with asthma or to still have asthma than women.
- Non-Hispanic black children are more likely to have ever been diagnosed with asthma or to still have asthma than Hispanic children or non-Hispanic white children.
- Children in poor families were more likely to have ever been diagnosed with asthma or to still have asthma than children in families that were not poor.
- Children living in a large metropolitan area are more likely to have asthma
In 2004, there were approximately 20.5 million Americans (6.2 million children) living with asthma1. The highest rates of asthma were seen in the 5-17 year age group 1. What can be confusing about these figures is that it is often reported that the rate of hospitalizations and death due to asthma have actually decreased, possibly indicating that the disease is being managed effectively. This assumption may have been fueled by the 1997 redesign of the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). After taking into consideration changes to the asthma questions in the redesigned survey, it was determined that asthma rates had not declined and were not significantly different from the mid 1990s. 2
The alleged decrease of asthma, especially among black children, did not support the documented fact that rates of asthma hospitalization and deaths are disproportionately high among poor urban children and continue to remain high 1.
There are many factors that have been associated with the increase in asthma among inner-city or urban residents, primarily children. A scientific review of the Child Health Supplement to the 1988 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS-CH), looked at a variety of demographic variables for independent associations with asthma. It was reported that black children had higher rates of asthma compared to white children. Initially it was thought that race was an independent association for these elevated asthma rates but after accounting for multiple factors; including race, findings suggested that the higher prevalence of asthma among black children is not due to race or to low income but that all children living in an urban setting are at increased risk for asthma. 3 “The driving force in this finding appears to be the increased urbanization of poverty, not race” according to Dr. Robert S. Byrd, director of pediatric outpatient services at U.C. Davis Children’s Hospital.