Home Health Study: Black and Hispanic children have higher asthma rates regardless of neighborhood...

Study: Black and Hispanic children have higher asthma rates regardless of neighborhood income or density


A new study from Childhood Respiratory and Environmental Workgroup (CREW) found that Black and Hispanic children have higher asthma rates, regardless of neighborhood income or density.

The research was led by Dr. James Gern, professor of pediatrics and medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. CREW, a national consortium made up of 12 medical centers that examine data to help determine the root causes of asthma, was established in 2016 with the mission to overcome the statistical limitations of smaller studies and has become a part of a seven-year initiative with the National Institutes of Health’s Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) program. 

“This study found that poverty and low-income status are associated with asthma, but that’s not all,” Dr. Gern said in a statement. “There are other things that we need to identify that are also associated with increased asthma rates in Black and Hispanic children.” 

The study collected information from 5,809 children which included demographics, wheezing and asthma occurrence, and medical history, in order to examine the relationship between children’s asthma with their race and ethnicity, their mother’s education level, and their smoking habits and socioeconomic conditions of the neighborhoods they were born into. The study concluded that 46% of children from the sample experienced wheezing in their first year of life and 26% of them wheezed through the age of 11. Researchers also found that children experienced more asthma, as well as early and persistent wheezing, when living in neighborhoods with a higher population density, living in lower-income households, and when living below the poverty level. 

Despite this relationship between asthma and socioeconomic status, the study also found that Black and Hispanic children living in neighborhoods with higher income still had a higher risk of experiencing asthma than white children. Researchers have suggested that this could be linked to the social and environmental legacy of structural racism that may influence respiratory health. 

According to a press release, this is the first study that CREW has published in a series of three planned research phases, led by consortium members Antonella Zanobetti, principal research scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Patrick H. Ryan, professor of pediatrics at University of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

“Neighborhood-and individual-level characteristics and their root causes should be considered as sources of respiratory health inequities,” Zanobetti said in a statement. “Reducing these inequities requires identifying and repairing differences between and within neighborhoods to create equal access to healthy living conditions.”