Every other week, The Chronicle of Social Change features one key indicator from Kidsdata.org, which offers comprehensive data about the health and well being of children across California.
This week, we look at asthma diagnoses and asthma-related hospitalizations. While overall asthma prevalence has slightly declined in the past five years, it has more than doubled since 1980.
Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases among children in the United States. About 9 percent of children in the United States suffer from some level of asthma, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While asthma can be debilitating, or even life-threatening, it usually is a controllable disease. Asthma often can be managed with medication, trigger avoidance, and regular medical monitoring. However, asthma can be triggered by environmental conditions, including:
- Outdoor air pollution
- Tobacco smoke
- Viral infections
- Animal dander
Last year, the federal Social Innovation Fund granted just over $1 million to Green and Healthy Homes Initiative to get five asthma prevention projects off the ground. All of the projects will use the pay-for-success model, in which a state or local government only pays for the services if a group of private funders and providers can yield results.
California appears to outpace the national average when it comes to asthma, although the diagnoses vary widely at the county level:
As the map indicates, 15.4 percent of parents reported having a child who was diagnosed with asthma in the period 2011 to 2012. But asthma rates vary by region depending on many factors, such as demographics, socioeconomics, the environment, physician diagnostic practices, and access to care.
In California, county-level estimates ranged from about 6 percent to 33 percent of children reportedly diagnosed with asthma during 2011 and 2012.
While asthma does not result in hospitalization for most children, it remains a leading cause of hospitalizations and absences from school. Asthma hospitalizations were far more frequent among young children, as the chart below reflects.
In California, 22.1 of every 10,000 children between birth and the age of four were hospitalized due to asthma in 2012. That is just under twice the rate of asthma hospitalizations for all children between birth and 17.
Looking at some of the state’s most populous counties, there is again a wide variance based on region. Five of those large counties post hospitalization rates below 20 per 10,000, while two (Fresno and Alameda) have rates that are twice that rate.
John Kelly is the editor of The Chronicle of Social Change.