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J Asthma. 2014 Mar;51(2):142-8. doi: 10.3109/02770903.2013.857682. Epub 2013 Nov 22.

Asthma, tobacco smoke and the indoor environment: a qualitative study of sheltered homeless families.

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Department of Pediatrics, Division of Pediatric Pulmonary .



Asthma is common in homeless children with an incidence of 28-40%. There are few published studies investigating asthma in homeless children. This study examines the perspectives of both caregivers and shelter staff regarding challenges and opportunities of caring for children with asthma.


A focus group of sheltered parents (nā€‰=ā€‰10) with children who have asthma was conducted to identify barriers to optimal asthma management. Key informant interviews (nā€‰=ā€‰6) were conducted with shelter staff to discuss the shelter systems and policies to address childhood asthma. Data were audio-recorded and transcribed. A representative analysis team performed qualitative theme analysis.


Key themes across 5 domains were identified: asthma education, access to asthma medication and equipment, asthma action plans, structural barriers to asthma management and environmental triggers. Parents identified multiple asthma triggers present in the shelter environment but cited lack of control as a barrier to remediation. Shelter staff desired elimination of asthma triggers but refer to the lack of resources as the primary barrier. Shelter staff favored a smoking ban on shelter property but named challenges to policy implementation. Both parents and staff identified asthma education and increased access to medications would be helpful.


Policies to reduce environmental exposures, such as a smoking ban, to asthma triggers has the potential to improve the health of sheltered children with asthma.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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