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Juneteenth is the annual national celebration of the end of slavery in the United States after the Civil War. In 2021, it became a federal holiday. The holiday is a time for celebration. It is also an opportunity to reflect on the health equity challenges Black people in the U.S., and Black women in particular, continue to face.

In the U.S., the burden of asthma and allergies falls disproportionately on Black, Hispanic, and American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) populations. Black people are more likely to be diagnosed with asthma compared to White people. Black people are also at risk of worse asthma outcomes. They are:

  • 2 times as likely to have a hospital stay due to asthma
  • 3 times as likely to die from asthma
  • 5 times as likely to visit the emergency department due to asthma

Black women fare the worst and have the highest rates of death due to asthma.

Join the Black Women’s Asthma Alliance

To help address these challenges, AAFA created the Black Women’s Asthma Alliance. You’re invited to join the private Facebook group for Black women who live with asthma and their caregivers:

A Midlife Asthma Diagnosis

Sherida Miller is one of the many Black women living with asthma in the U.S. Her self-advocacy and commitment to health education are encouraging for anyone living with severe asthma.

Sherida visited a hospital emergency room in Los Angeles almost 10 years ago. She had trouble breathing and left the hospital with a new diagnosis of asthma. As an adult in her 40s, she did not expect to develop asthma, “Why am I going through this, now?” said Sherida.

Sherida, like many other women, was more likely to be diagnosed with asthma in adulthood than men. Sherida also has a strong family history of asthma, which can be an additional risk factor for a diagnosis. Sherida later discovered she has many allergies that make her asthma worse. Once she found out about and treated her allergies, her asthma control got better.

Sherida is now a confident self-advocate for her medical care.

“I didn’t always have good health care,” Sherida said. “I decided to look for better care. I’ve since found good providers that now take their time and listen to me.”

Sherida’s doctor referred her to Breathe Southern California’s (Breathe SoCal) Breathe Easier Asthma Management (BEAM) program. Breathe SoCal is one of AAFA’s Health Equity Advancement and Leadership (HEAL) program sites that works to improve health outcomes locally.

Sherida is dedicated to learning about her condition so she can stay active.

“You have to be aware and do your homework,” said Sherida.

She stays up to date on available treatments and continues to learn how to reduce her exposure to indoor and outdoor asthma and allergy triggers.

“I’ve learned that I must keep my windows closed in the early morning to reduce pollen entering my apartment,” said Sherida. “I also live in downtown [Los Angeles] near the highway, and there is a lot of dust. I stay up on my cleaning.”

Keep on Going

Sherida shares that managing asthma and her other health conditions can get overwhelming at times but they have not slowed her down. She reflects on her community and family that keep her busy. She stays active and wears a mask outside when pollen counts are high. She also exercises 5 times a week, is active in her community, and is getting her real estate and broker licenses.

Sherida’s consistency has helped. In the past year, she feels like her asthma has been more controlled. She credits this to understanding her triggers and preventing asthma attacks before they occur by using her controller medicines, reducing her triggers, eating healthy, and exercising.

Her advice to other people with asthma is to “get properly tested for asthma and allergies and do your homework. Figure out what triggers your asthma and how you can prevent it. Understanding your family history is also helpful.”

AAFA’s HEAL program works closely with local communities that experience an undue burden of asthma. Breathe SoCal is one of AAFA’s HEAL program sites that works to improve health outcomes locally. Breathe SoCal’s BEAM program provides a home environmental assessment to people with asthma to help reduce asthma and allergy triggers, provide patient education, and more. Sherida is a BEAM program participant.

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