Jan. 11 (UPI) — Racial, environmental and economic problems continue to widen disparities in negative asthma outcomes for people in the U.S. — with black being more likely to die of complications from the condition than other racial and ethnic groups — according to new research.
To combat the problem, researchers are examining targeted interventions, like mobile asthma units and joint programs with schools, they said in a study published this week in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
“It isn’t clear why asthma outcomes are worse in African American patients,” Anne Fitzpatrick, director of the Asthma Clinical Research Program at Emory University, said in a news release.
For the study, researchers observed 579 people 6 years and older for one year, reviewing medical histories, how they manage their asthma, measured lung functioned and reviewed blood samples and other asthma biomarkers.
Compared to white people, researchers found that black people have a significantly higher rate of deaths related to asthma.
Researchers found that black patients are 43 percent less likely to make outpatient visits to the doctor for asthma-related problems, but that they are more than twice as likely as white patients to visit the emergency room for asthma problems.
Even with decent insurance coverage, asthma medications and preventative medical services can be costly, with researchers pointing to a need for social and environmental policies and interventions tailored to reach black populations.
An example of an intervention given by researchers is the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile unit that serves 11 Atlanta-area elementary and middle schools. But they say that interventions such as employer-endorsed health initiatives can also help motivate patients to proactively treat their asthma.
“The findings from our study suggest that poorer asthma outcomes are not genetic or biological in nature, but are instead due to a number of socioeconomic and environmental factors that impact asthma care,” Fitzpatrick said. “These factors can be modified and improved with the right interventions.”