Increasing Asthma Rates in African American Children

BY ON July 15, 2011

This piece was cross posted at Non-Toxic Kids.

African American baby smilingLast week, the Moms Clean Air Force hosted its first Blog Talk Radio program about Asthma rates in African American children. The facts below are outrageous and unacceptable– and should motivate us to support cleaner air standards immediately.


*African American children have a 260% higher emergency department visit rate, a 250% higher hospitalization rate, and a 500% higher death rate from asthma, as compared with Caucasian children.

*From 2003-2005, African American children had a death rate 7 times that of Caucasian children.

*African Americans had asthma-related emergency room visits 4.5 times more often than Caucasians in 2004.

*In 2006, African Americans were three times more likely to die from asthma related causes than the White population.

*Children in poor families are more likely to ever have been diagnosed with asthma.

Guests during the radio show included Dr. Sande Okelo, assistant professor of pulmonary medicine at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, and Vernice Miller-Travis, vice president of the Maryland State Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities.  You can listen to the podcast here.

Dr. Okelo identified what he was hearing from patients about their experiences with asthma and their children:

“Children have symptoms for a long time but their parents were never told their child does have Asthma. That is the most common story: lack of recognition or complete explanation for the parents about their child. A child of almost any age can be diagnosed with Asthma, but often parents are told their child is too young to be diagnosed.”

This lack of a diagnosis can lead to the mismanagement of asthma, causing more hospital and intensive care visits. Once a diagnosis is made, Dr. Okelo discusses important next steps to protect the child:

“Once a child has been diagnosed with asthma the first and most important goal is to control the disease. Once the asthma is brought under control, there is an opportunity to see if the child can get by with less and less medications over time. There are many children that only need the medicine for just a few months or a year or two; however an important way to get your child off asthma medications is to see your primary doctor regularly, three to four times a year.”

Later in the conversation, it was stunning to hear about the choices some parents have to make.  To keep their kids inside, where the air is cleaner and safer (which is debatable) or to have them play outside, where there is harmful air pollution.  We know to fight obesity, and to have happy healthy lives, kids need to play outside.  To have to choose between one or the other– on a daily basis, knowing that their is harm in both actions– is devastating and demoralizing.

We cannot stand by while more and more kids are diagnosed with asthma because of polluted air. This effects families profoundly, and we have the power to change it.  Please join us at the Moms Clean Air Force to work together for clean air.

TOPICS: African-American Community, Asthma, Pollution, Social Justice