Objectives: We describe the system of asthma care in Hartford, CT, an urban, minority community.
Methods: The health field concept was used to organize factors influencing asthma prevalence and severity. Data were obtained from national, state, and municipal reports, and from surveys of children in Hartford seeking medical care in an asthma program called Easy Breathing.
Results: Between June 1, 1998, and May 1, 2000, 21% of children receiving Medicaid in Hartford did not file a medical claim. Between 1998 and 2000, the number of providers in Hartford decreased by 37% while the number of outpatient visits increased by 8%. Using claims data, we found the following: 19.0% of Hartford children had asthma (data from the International Classification of Disease, ninth revision, and the National Drug Code); and 12% of children with asthma filled a prescription for inhaled corticosteroid therapy, 83% for a bronchodilator, and 36% for an oral corticosteroid. Children with asthma were more likely to be hospitalized (10% vs 5%, respectively) and to visit an emergency department (45% vs 29%, respectively), and, on average, they had more hospital days (0.603 vs 0.415 days per child, respectively) and more outpatient visits per year (4.7 vs 2.5 visits, respectively) compared to children without asthma. Asthma prevalence in the 6,643 children surveyed in the Easy Breathing program was 41%. Persistent asthma was diagnosed in 50% of the children with asthma. Asthma prevalence varied by ethnic origin, age, and gender, and was highest in Hispanic/Puerto Rican children, in children 5 to 10 years of age, in boys up to 10 years of age, and in girls after 15 years of age.
Conclusion: Improved personal behaviors and medical care will have a limited sustained impact on childhood asthma until basic environmental issues are modified. The health field concept provides a mechanism with which to address the issues surrounding asthma in urban communities.