Poor Kids and Hospitalization for Asthma

By Dr. Larry Chiaramonte
According to the 2010 National Healthcare Disparities Report, which examines the disparities in Americans’ access to and quality of health care, with breakdowns by race, ethnicity, income, and education. Black children were four times more likely than white children to be hospitalized for a severe asthma attack in 2007.

For every 100,000 children age 2 to 17 hospitalized for asthma attacks, the federal agency’s data show that: 384 were black, 94 were white, 135 were Hispanic, and 78 were Asian and Pacific Islander. · Children from poor families were more than twice as likely as those from high-income families to be admitted, (231 versus 102)

Boys had about 50 percent more hospitalizations than girls, (181 versus 119).

Children ages 2 to 4 were over 6 times more likely than children ages 15-17 to be hospitalized, (310 versus 50).

Why am I not surprised? It might have something to do with the fact that I have been practicing pediatric allergy for nearly 40 years, and in recent years have been working in Ft. Asthma, the Bronx, which is America’s highest asthma zip code. Disadvantaged kids experience a variety of environmental and social pathologies, but we have also seen that dedicated asthma care can greatly reduce the disparities between black kids and other groups. Hospitalization is just the tip of the iceberg. For every trip to the emergency room or every night in a hospital bed, there are many more of sleepless nights for children and their parents, days lost at school or work, and low performance at both.

We can’t easily redress all the social and educational disparities between the disadvantaged and the “advantaged” but we know that controlling pediatric asthma has a big payoff in school performance, quality of children’s lives, quality of family life, and public dollars.

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