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A recent study by the Respiratory Health Association (RHA) reveals the racial gap among Chicago’s children with asthma is widening. The data shows that asthmatic Black children are four times more likely to end up in an emergency room than white adolescents.
Asthma is a long-term (chronic) condition that affects the airways in the lungs. The airways are tubes that carry oxygen in and out of people’s lungs. If someone has this condition their airways can become inflamed and narrowed at times.
This makes it difficult for oxygen to flow out of the airways when a person breathes out. Pollen, exercise, viral infections, or cold air can exasperate these symptoms.
For many years, Chicago has been considered an epicenter for asthma. Minority communities on the South and West sides experience a higher rate of asthmatic symptoms.
Information released by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) indicates there has been hardly any progress addressing these disparities.
The RHA focused its research on the rates of asthma-related emergency department visits from 2016 to 2021. Between those years there were 23,550 asthma-related emergency room visits among Chicago youth 19 years old and younger. Of those patients, 53% (16,436 individuals) were Black children. The study also indicated that among Black adolescents ages four years and younger, 40% visited the emergency department.
Joel Africk, RHA’s President and Chief Executive Officer, pointed out that “Every child should have the same opportunity to breathe easy, and it’s clear we need to do more to understand and address the disparities.” Adding that “It’s unfair these kids have to miss out on time with classmates and friends – and fall behind – just because of their asthma.”
Asthma-related emergency room visits show disparities existing across all races. However, the biggest gap resides between Black and white children.
Recent data shows that in 2021, Black youth between the ages of 5 to 19 were 4.3 times more likely to have asthmatic-related symptoms bring them to the hospital. This is a 9% increase from the data collected in 2016.
Erica Salem, Senior Director, Strategy, Programs, and Policy at RHA noted, “Unfortunately, many Chicago area kids are feeling some of the worst effects from asthma.” It is pivotal ” to support more research into these racial disparities and expand community- and school-based asthma programming,” she added.
Especially since the city is trying to “eliminate racial health disparities, an investment in asthma is long overdue.”
Decades of racial disparities could be the contributing factor as to why Black or Hispanic families experience higher emergency rates for their asthma. Black and Hispanic families are more likely to live near warehouses, highways, or industrial businesses. This means they are at a greater risk of exposing their children to pollution.
Providing asthma education to youth and their families in a forum-like setting is essential. This will allow guardians, parents, and the child to learn by practice. It is also important for children to be immersed in environments that can support their asthma management. This would include living in areas with good air quality, and areas with low allergens and triggers like animal dander, dust, and smoke.
Written by Sheena Robertson
Chicago Sun-Times: Chicago must do more to erase racial disparities in childhood asthma
Respiratory Health Association: NEW STUDY REVEALS WIDENING RACIAL GAPS AMONG CHICAGO CHILDREN WITH ASTHMA
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institue: What Is Asthma?
Top and Featured Image Courtesy of Chris Bentley‘s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health Courtesy of NIH Image Gallery’s Flickr Page Creative Commons License