A blueprint for a plan to reduce the rates of asthma among low-income and minority children was released Thursday, an effort taken on by several federal agencies.
The suggestion is to develop a multi-pronged approach to reach patients who seem to be consistently alienated from asthma care. Minorities would best be served if barriers to care were reduced, ways to deliver care were enhanced, interventions were instituted and communities most likely to have asthma were targeted, according to the plan that will be carried about by the Environmental Protection Agency and Health and Human Services, among other federal agencies.
What the Action Plan Will Do:
- Reduce barriers to asthma care: Ensure that the populations most severely impacted by asthma receive evidence-based comprehensive care, which includes access to medical services, education and environmental interventions.
- Build local capacity: Enhance capacity to deliver integrated, community-based asthma care systems.
- Target services: Identify the children, families and communities most impacted by asthma disparities.
- Accelerate prevention efforts: Increase understanding of the cause or causes of asthma and test interventions that may prevent the onset of asthma.
The timeline for delivering on these suggestions is 3 to 5 years.
“Low-income and minority communities often face an unacceptable burden of pollution in this country, diminishing their economic potential and threatening the health of millions of American families,” said Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
Minority and low-income children suffer from the disease most, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control. About 16 percent of African American children have asthma, while the rate for Hispanics is 8 percent. Of Latinos, Puerto Ricans are hardest hit with 16.5 percent showing signs of the affliction. Mexicans reported 7 percent. Blacks and Puerto Ricans have asthma at rates more than double that of Caucasian children in the United States.
Asthma can be costly, if you factor in medical expenses and the time lost from school and work, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Medical expenses associated with asthma are estimated to be more than $50 billion annually. In 2008, the disease accounted for 10.5 million missed school days.
One key factor that is so critical to controlling a child’s asthma is access to health care
- Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services
“One key factor that is so critical to controlling a child’s asthma is access to health care,” according to Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services. “Uninsured people with asthma are less likely to take the preventive medicine they may need to keep their condition under control, making them more likely to suffer an attack. That’s why we are focused on expanding access to care.”
There are significant racial and ethnic disparities in asthma treatment and results, according to the CDC. Among children with asthma, black children are twice as likely to be hospitalized, more than twice as likely to have an emergency department visit and four times more likely to die due to asthma than white children.
Soni Sangha is a freelance writer based in New York City.