The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America report on Asthma Disparities in America looks at the burden of asthma on racial/ethnic groups in the United States.
Health disparities are preventable health differences between groups of people. They 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.
National Hispanic Heritage Month is Sept. 15 – Oct. 15, 2021. Hispanic Americans experience structural racism and discrimination that is directly tied to poorer health. We are putting a spotlight on the need for health equity to reduce the unequal burden of asthma on Hispanic Americans and other minority groups.
Hispanic Americans make up more than 18% of the U.S. population – making them the second largest population group. And the U.S. Census Bureau projects that this group will account for more than 27% of the U.S. population by 2060. As the U.S. population becomes more racially and ethnically diverse, it becomes increasingly important to address disparities in asthma.
While asthma rates are relatively low for the Hispanic population overall, there are major differences among Hispanic subgroups, (such as Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cuban Americans, and other Latino/Latina/Latinx identities).
Many studies show that asthma rates are higher among Puerto Ricans than any other Hispanic subgroup – or any other racial or ethnic group in the United States. Puerto Ricans are also at risk of worse asthma outcomes, like higher chances of asthma attacks, emergency room visits, and asthma-related deaths.
Causes of Asthma Disparities in Hispanic Populations
There are several causes of asthma disparities in Hispanic groups in America. Structural racism and discrimination cause asthma disparities in Hispanic Americans. Social, structural, biological, and behavioral factors that cause these disparities are called “determinants.” These causes include:
- Inequalities in education that affect health knowledge and understanding
- Lower job rates, lower pay, lack of quality jobs, and less job stability
- Limited access to quality health care
- Bias and language barriers in medical care
- Environmental pollution that makes asthma worse
- Distrust in the medical establishment
All of these factors can affect asthma treatment and management in Hispanic people.
Along with racial and ethnic disparities, African ancestry may also contribute to higher asthma rates in Puerto Ricans. They tend to have a larger percentage of African ancestry compared to other Hispanic subgroups. Researchers believe African ancestry could be a genetic predictor of asthma.
Reducing Asthma Disparities in Hispanic Populations
One way to help reduce asthma disparities among Hispanic groups is to improve research and data. If we have better data on Hispanic Americans and more participation in clinical trials, we can all work together to develop better asthma treatments, management strategies, and methods to reduce disparities.
Of course, addressing problems with data and research is only part of the solution. AAFA’s “Asthma Disparities in America” report lays out other suggestions for reducing disparities in asthma through policy reform, programs, and partnerships.
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.
Improving Asthma Care
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