Published Jun 09, 2022 in hsph.harvard.edu
Children living in neighborhoods with higher population densities, greater proportions of lower-income households, and greater poverty had higher rates of asthma, according to a study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. In addition, the study found that Black and Hispanic children were at significantly higher risk of developing asthma than white children, regardless of income levels.
The analysis, published May 23, 2022 in JAMA Pediatrics, looked at information on 5,809 children from across the U.S., using census tract-level level data from four census years between 1980 and 2010.
Lead author Antonella Zanobetti, principal research scientist in the Department of Environmental Health, said in a May 24, 2022 Healio article that the researchers were surprised that, even after considering both neighborhood characteristics and individual risk factors for asthma, such as having a parent with asthma, Black and Hispanic children still had greater risk for the disease compared with white children. The researchers suggested that structural factors including racism, discrimination, discriminatory policies, education, the physical environment, and access to health care may be playing a role in the disparities.
Zanobetti listed some actions that doctors and other stakeholders could take to improve care, such as helping vulnerable patients identify risk factors for asthma, prescribing changes in housing, or advocating for neighborhood improvements. She added, “Our results really emphasize that solving health inequities requires not just individual-level changes in practice, but large-scale population level changes.”
Other Harvard Chan School co-authors of the study included Diane Gold, a professor in the Department of Environmental Health, and Brent Coull, professor of biostatistics.