About 12% of California Residents Have Asthma, New Study Finds
About 12% of California residents have asthma, which has become a "significant" health problem in the state, according to a new study, the San Jose Mercury News reports. According to the study, released today, doctors have diagnosed about 3.9 million California children and adults with asthma, and about 750,000 others suffer symptoms of asthma -- wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath -- on a weekly or daily basis. In the study, the first part of the California Health Interview Survey, researchers interviewed 55,248 households between November 2000 and September 2001 (Ostrov, San Jose Mercury News, 5/6). The study found that doctors had diagnosed 12.9% of children and 11.5% of adults with asthma. Asthma diagnoses "disproportionately" affect some groups, the study found. According to the study, 13.7% of whites, 8.4% of Hispanics, 10.5% of Asians, 18.7% of blacks and 23.2% of Native Americans and Alaska natives said that doctors had diagnosed them with asthma. The study found that location also affected the rate of asthma diagnoses -- the rate ranged from 5.7% in Monterey and San Benito counties to 14.1% in Solano County. The study also found that 11.4% of children and 7.2% of adults sought treatment in an emergency room for asthma symptoms in the previous year. However, 14.9% of adults and 18.2% of children with daily or weekly asthma symptoms did not take medication, the study found (AP/Orange County Register, 5/7). In response to the study, state health officials plan to launch a new program, Community Action to Fight Asthma, which will provide $12 million to health agencies statewide to "limit exposures to activities" that can lead to asthma attacks (Heredia, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/7).
In related news, a panel of health experts marked today's celebration of World Asthma Day by recommending several "far-reaching actions" to improve the lives of the estimated five million American children with the condition. The panel, convened by RAND with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation as part of the foundation's Pediatric Asthma Initiative, outlined 11 policy recommendations, which appear in the current issue of the journal Pediatrics. The suggestions include improving asthma care in primary care settings, providing case management to children at high risk of asthma and developing "model health care benefit packages" for essential services for children with asthma (RAND release, 5/6). An estimated 15 million Americans experience asthma effects each year and nearly 5,000 people die from the disease, according to a statement from HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson marking World Asthma Day. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which coordinates World Asthma Day, the disease cost the United States an estimated $12.7 billion in 2000 (HHS release, 5/7). The complete list of RAND's policy recommendations is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the report.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.