Childhood Asthma Rates Level Off, But Racial Disparities Remain – Rob Stein December 28, 20151:51 AM ET


Asthma is a big cause of school absences and can cause parents to miss work, too.

Asthma is a big cause of school absences and can cause parents to miss work, too. AJPhoto/Science Source

There’s finally some good news about childhood asthma in the United States: After rising for decades, the number of children with the breathing disorder has finally stopped increasing and may have started falling, according to a government analysis.

“That was a big surprise,” says Lara Akinbami of the National Center for Health Statistics. “We were expecting the increase to kind of continue. But in fact we saw the opposite.”

The percentage of U.S. children with asthma doubled in the 1980s and 1990s and had been increasing steadily since then. The reason for the increase has remained mysterious, but there may be many possible factors, including exposure to secondhand smoke, obesity and children’s immune systems failing to develop properly.

Akinbami and her colleagues detected the first change in that trend when they analyzed data from the National Health Interview Survey between 2001 and 2013.

Among children ages 17 and younger, the prevalence of asthma peaked at 9.7 percent in 2011 and then plateaued until 2013, when it declined to 8.3 percent, the researchers report Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

But asthma prevalence continues to rise among children in the poorest families and remains far more common among African-American children than white children. More than 14 percent of black children have asthma, compared to about 8 percent of white children. Black children are also much more likely than white children to suffer severe complications.

Article continues:

http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/12/28/460845335/childhood-asthma-rates-level-off-but-racial-disparities-remain