Racial and Ethnic Disparities Continue In Asthma Rates

Nandita Bhan, ScD MSc MA Research Scientist & Adjunct Assistant Professor Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Nandita Bhan, ScD MSc MA
Research Scientist & Adjunct Assistant Professor
Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI)

Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Bhan: We found that the last decade in the US has seen a rise in racial/ethnic disparities in asthma. Compared to Non-Hispanic White populations, greater rates of asthma were seen among African Americans and lower rates among Hispanic populations. But more importantly, we found that it is not just a question of who you are, but where you live. Results showed heterogeneity by region and place of origin – highlighting that it will be simplistic to assume that asthma rates for Hispanic populations are the same across all states in the US.

While data is unable to explore further granularity by ethnicity, our results add to the developing evidence that state policies and politics have impacts on socioeconomic and racial/ethnic inequalities manifesting in health disparities in the US.

Medical Research: What was most surprising about the results?

Dr. Bhan: Racial and ethnic disparities have been noted for health outcomes in several previous accounts. However, this evidence for asthma was mixed – because of biological and environmental determinants. The geography and time scale of this study provides strength to the assertion that race/ethnicity is a key driver of the burden of asthma. In fact, disparities are on the rise and need immediate intervention.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Bhan: In our study, we found disparities to be on the rise. These need to be countered with better management of asthma to reduce impacts on patients and households. Both clinicians and outreach efforts for communities and families are needed for this. For patients who have already developed asthma, management practices may help in reducing health burdens. For families with young children at risk of developing asthma, prevention would be critical.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Bhan: Three recommendations for policy and clinical care.

Firstly, research connecting asthma development with triggers is needed to establish the distribution of the burden. Studies currently show Hispanic populations with greater rates of exacerbation and attacks.
Second, understanding links between obesity and asthma, which would lead to double burdens on patients.
And finally, if asthma is varying by region, what policies (residential, industrial or environmental) have had an impact on asthma rates.

​ Citation:

Nandita Bhan, Ichiro Kawachi, Maria M. Glymour, and S. V. Subramanian. (2014). Time Trends in Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Asthma Prevalence in the United States From the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Study (1999–2011). American Journal of Public Health. e-View Ahead of Print.

doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2014.302172