Spotlight: Asthma Health Disparities Among Minority Populations
Health disparities affect different communities in different ways, especially when considering racial and ethnic inequities. Individuals within minority groups often experience reduced access to care and less representation in clinical trials. These factors, coupled with socioeconomic barriers to accessing preventive health care and treatment, can affect their short- and long-term care.1,2 This is true among those with a variety of diseases and conditions, including asthma.
Causes of health disparities among minority groups
Black and Hispanic populations are greatly affected by the burden of asthma. These groups experience poor asthma outcomes at disproportionately high percentages due to socioeconomic, cultural, and environmental causes. They also experience higher rates of hospitalizations and deaths due to asthma. This has primarily been attributed to inequitable access to preventive care.3
Poverty, which is strongly correlated with ethnicity, is a primary risk factor for developing asthma in the US. Those who live in poverty are more likely to experience long-term exposure to pollution, to smoke and be exposed to smoke, live in homes with higher indoor allergen levels, and experience lower access to healthcare due to income and proximity to hospitals and clinics.4,5
Varieties of asthma health disparities
Some health inequities in asthma are due to a combination of multiple socioeconomic, cultural, and environmental causes. For example, the risk of developing asthma is increased with long-term exposure to allergens in the home, such as dust mites or mold.3 Long-term exposure can occur due to a variety of factors, including:
- Socioeconomic: Mold and dust mite removal is expensive and time-consuming
- Cultural: Language or literacy barriers may keep minority communities from seeking assistance with removing the allergen(s) and/or receiving appropriate healthcare for treating side effects
- Environmental: It may not be obvious, depending on the location of the allergen in the home, that the allergen is there
It is also less likely that members of minority groups, especially children, will receive control medications for their asthma.3 Some of the causes for this may include:
- Socioeconomic: Access to care, such as regular doctor visits, may not be affordable
- Cultural: Parents of children with asthma may experience distrust of doctors and/or medication or have poor communication with their physicians
- Environmental: A doctor and/or pharmacy may not exist in a travelable range
How can these disparities be improved?
There are some programs that address asthma education and outreach among minority populations. These programs address factors that may be keeping individuals with asthma from getting the most out of their care, such as ineffective use of an inhaler. However, there is a continuous need for improved access to asthma care.3
Minority groups represent a continuously growing portion of the population in the United States. However, people of color are still underrepresented in long-term health data.2 To compare asthma health disparities among various populations, current health data needs to be collected and analyzed. This health data can then be used to improve and develop asthma intervention programming.
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