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Pediatr Pulmonol. 2002 Jan;33(1):47-55.

Childhood asthma in the United States: urban issues.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, 4540 Sandpoint Way NE, Suite 200, Seattle, WA 98105.


The prevalence and morbidity of asthma are growing problems that appear to affect urban populations and particularly impoverished centers disproportionately. Poor children are more likely to be hospitalized for asthma than nonpoor children, and are more likely to experience clinical and social dysfunction due to asthma. While guidelines exist for best care of childhood asthma, the neediest children are least likely to encounter the benefits of these recommendations. The relationship between host and environment in both primary causation and disease exacerbation is an area of research and debate. Allergen exposure in early life appears to correlate with sensitization and expression of atopy and asthma. Impoverished households are more likely to be reservoirs for dust mite and cockroach antigen in high concentrations than more affluent settings. Lifestyle factors, including diet and ambient air quality, may be disease modifiers. Suboptimal systems for delivery of healthcare to high-risk populations are obvious targets for blame. Poor children are more likely than nonpoor children to receive sick care in emergency rooms that lack a connection to chronic care providers. Besides the method of delivery, the quality of care is questionable, as poor children are less likely to receive the anti-inflammatory maintenance medications for asthma that evidence-based guidelines recommend. Efforts to correct these problems must take into account such issues as explaining the nature of the disease and the best intervention strategies to people who have a diverse array of cultural backgrounds, belief systems, and life stressors. Efforts to improve the status quo are underway in many communities. Environmental control measures to reduce dust mite and cockroach exposure have met with some success. Models to improve access to care and acceptance of care may improve community outreach maneuvers that connect the medical establishment with families and patients. Examination and assessment of new approaches to facilitate this sort of communication hold promise and are receiving attention as well as research dollars.

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