Asthma Hits California’s Low-Income Residents Hardest, Report Finds
Nearly five million Californians have been diagnosed with asthma, and those living in low-income households generally face more serious consequences from the condition, according to a report by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, the Vallejo Times Herald reports.
The California Endowment provided financial support for the study, which used data from the California Health Interview Survey (Raskin-Zrihen, Vallejo Times Herald, 12/17/10).
According to the report, the percentage of Californians diagnosed with asthma increased from 11.3% to 13% between 2001 and 2007 (Jewett, California Watch, 12/17/10).
Of the more than 600,000 Californians who experience frequent asthma symptoms, researchers found that nearly 40% have annual incomes that are less than 200% of the federal government's poverty level. Of the asthma sufferers who have annual incomes equal to or exceeding 400% of the federal poverty level, fewer than 20% have frequent symptoms (Vallejo Times Herald, 12/17/10).
The report also found that:
- Low-income children with asthma missed an average of 2.8 school days per year because of asthma attacks, while higher-income children missed an average of 1.3 days per year because of the condition;
- Low-income adults with asthma missed three times as many work days per year as higher-income adults;
- In low-income households, 23.9% of children with asthma had sought emergency department care for the condition within the past year, compared with 12.5% of higher-income children;
- 18.8% of low-income adults with asthma sought ED care for the disease in the past year, compared with 8.8% of higher-income adults;
- 22.1% of low-income asthma sufferers are uninsured, compared with 4.4% of higher-income people with asthma; and
- Rates of secondhand smoke exposure were three times higher among low-income people with asthma, compared with higher-income people with asthma (Melnick, Time, 12/20/10).
To address the disparities among Californians with asthma, the report's authors recommend:
- Expanding health coverage to low-income residents;
- Boosting care quality for asthma patients by establishing disease management programs or adopting medical home models; and
- Improving housing conditions and other environmental factors for low-income Californians (California Watch, 12/17/10).