Photo: Burden of Asthma on Latinos
The American Lung Association released a new report today, Luchando por el Aire: The Burden of Asthma on Hispanics, which provides an overview of research on the complex biological, environmental, political and cultural factors that increase asthma’s burden on the Hispanic/Latino population in this country. This report is part of the Lung Association’s Disparities in Lung Health Series.
The Spanish title is the best translation of “fighting for air,” an experience that is all too common among Hispanics with asthma. Compared to non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics with asthma are less likely to be in the care of a regular doctor or clinic; less likely to be prescribed appropriate medicines; less likely to have access to specialized care; and more likely to end up being treated in the emergency department or hospitalized in a crisis.
According to Norman H. Edelman, M.D., Chief Medical Officer for the American Lung Association,
“Some Hispanics face social and economic disadvantages that leave them less able to implement the necessary steps to manage their asthma. Hispanics are the nation’s fastest growing ethnic group, and the urgency of addressing the burden of asthma grows with the population. The Lung Association remains committed to addressing these and other health disparities in this country.”
Unfortunately, more than 25 percent of Hispanics lack a regular source of medical care, and when they get sick they are more likely to end up being treated in the emergency department or hospitalized. Although Hispanics are only 16 percent of the U.S. population, they account for nearly one-third of people who do not have health insurance.
When it comes to managing their asthma, Hispanics also face other burdens that are due to the environment, poverty and stress. For example, Hispanics are 165 percent more likely to live in counties with unhealthy levels of particulate matter pollution, and 51 percent more likely to live in counties with unhealthy levels of ozone compared to non-Hispanic whites. They are also more likely to work in low-paying agriculture, construction and service jobs that rarely provide health benefits and often expose workers to serious respiratory hazards.
Poverty and stress have been shown to affect the body’s immune response, increasing inflammation and worsening asthma. At 22 percent, more Hispanics in this country live below the poverty level compared to the U.S. average of 12.5 percent.
According to Fernando Pineda-Reyes, CEO of CREA Results, whose organization of Promotores de Salud/Community Health Workers seeks to raise awareness and education on health issues in the Latino community, “Asthma is a frightening disease for individuals in the Hispanic community, especially when language barriers are present. That’s why the Lung Association asthma management programs provide much-needed help to people in our community suffering from asthma.”