ASTHMA: Hispanic Youths at Risk in Central Valley
Figures released by the state Department of Health Services show "Hispanic children in Fresno County are hospitalized at a rate of 289 per 100,000, a 35% higher rate than non-Hispanic white children (188 per 100,000)," and attibutable largely to asthma, the Fresno Bee reports. Two million state residents have asthma, and on average, 630 deaths occur every year from the disease. The Latino Issues Forum, a public policy think tank in San Francisco, says that Hispanic children run a higher risk of the aliment because of their lack of access to health care, language barriers, and their proximity to environmental hazards such as farm dust, pesticides, and smog. Nancy Huss, coordinator of a mobile asthma clinic, said asthmatic Hispanic children who lack insurance "basically live in emergency rooms or the urgent cares." A 1993 assessment of air quality in the Central Valley by the Valley Pollution District showed an "annual average of 138.7 tons of particulate pollution per day being generated by farming operation and another 110 tons from unpaved, dusty roads. An additional 216 tons of emission are linked to fuel combustion, waste burning, industry, construction, automobiles and paved roads." The cost of medicine, and the lack in understanding of how to use the medication, is a difficult issue for the Hispanic population. Joy Grado, program manager of the Central California Asthma Project, said only one out of 90 asthmatics used their inhaler properly, according to their 1995 survey. Also at issue is cost. "Inhalers can cost from $60 to $70 -- a utility bill for those without insurance who have to pay the full cost of medications," the Bee notes. Dr. Lauro Roberto, a pediatric pulmonologist, states that asthma medication can reach as high as $400 each month, saying, "Where would a migrant worker get the money to pay $400? That's a house payment here in Fresno" (Anderson, 9/28).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.