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Asthma and Black Americans: A Closer Look at Disparities and Solutions For Change

 

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s (AAFA) “Asthma Disparities in America” report looks at the burden of asthma on racial/ethnic groups in the United States.

Health disparities are preventable health differences between groups of people. Health disparities are higher burdens of illness or death linked to social, economic, and environmental disadvantages. For example, if one group of people has a higher rate of asthma than another group of people, it is an asthma disparity.

February is Black History Month. Black Americans experience structural racism and discrimination that is directly tied to poorer health. This month, and every month, we are putting a spotlight on the need for health equity to reduce the unequal burden of asthma on Black Americans and other minority groups.


Asthma disparities among Black communities in the United States have existed for many decades. Experts have studied and noted the causes in great detail. Recently, the focus finally started to shift from talking about the problem to changing it.

Health care has improved for many people in the last 10 years. But dramatic differences in asthma between Black and white Americans still exist. This must be addressed to reduce asthma rates, improve quality of life, and save lives.

Burden of Asthma on Black Populations

Black Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with asthma compared to white Americans. Black people are also at risk of worse asthma outcomes. They are:

  • Two times as likely to have a hospital stay due to asthma
  • Three times as likely to die from asthma
  • Five times as likely to visit the emergency department due to asthma

Among Black groups, Black females fare the worst. They are almost four times as likely to die from asthma than white males.

Causes of Asthma Disparities in Black Populations

Various factors cause racial and ethnic disparities among Black groups in America. Social, structural, biological, and behavioral factors that cause these disparities are called “determinants.”

Structural racism and discrimination cause asthma disparities in Black Americans. These causes include:

  • Lower job rates, lower pay, lack of quality jobs, and less job stability
  • Housing inequalities including lower home ownership rates
  • Limited access to quality health care
  • Bias in medical care
  • Higher rates of exposure to environmental pollution
  • Less representation in research, including for drug clinical trials
  • Distrust in medical establishment

Genetics from African ancestry may also contribute to higher asthma rates among Black populations.

All of these factors come together to affect asthma control and access to health care and medicines.

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Reducing Asthma Disparities Among Black Populations

There are reasons to be hopeful. In the last 10 years, asthma disparities in Black populations have gone down.

About 2.7 million Black Americans were able to get health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But there is more work to do to ensure health care is affordable and accessible.

To continue to reduce asthma disparities, we need to:

  • Change policies to promote health equity in all areas
  • Build partnerships that break down systems that discriminate, especially in health care
  • Reduce exposure to indoor and outdoor pollution and asthma and allergy triggers
  • Increase diversity among health care and research workers
  • Reduce the racial wage gap in the U.S.
  • Expand access to health care
  • Offer personal and culturally appropriate asthma care
  • Increase diversity among health care and research workers
  • Increase Black representation in research and on patient advisory councils

Learn more in our “Asthma Disparities in America” report:

Download: Asthma Disparities in America Report

AAFA is working to reduce asthma disparities for at-risk groups and improve asthma care for everyone. We developed a list of nearly 70 strategies to make asthma health better for racial and ethnic groups. You can find these strategies in our Asthma Disparities in America Report. Recently, we received funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help us improve community health for at-risk groups.

The Asthma Disparities in America report is made possible by support from AstraZeneca, Genentech, Novartis, PhRMA, and Sanofi Genzyme and Regeneron. The full report can be found at aafa.org/asthmadisparities.

Supporting Black Women With Asthma

Black women have the highest risk of dying from asthma. We want to reduce this risk and save lives. To help us fulfill our mission, we are launching an asthma support program for Black women with asthma.

Sign up for AAFA’s community to get alerted about the launch of this new program. You will also have opportunities to:

  • Advocate for people affected by asthma
  • Take part in patient-centered research and clinical trials
  • Join one of our Patient and Family Advisory Councils
  • Get invitations to special events with expert speakers

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