Study objective: To examine asthma diagnosis, asthma severity, and the presence of established asthma risk factors in children who reside in nonurban communities.
Design: A cross-sectional study was conducted of 19,076 children (6 months to 18 years of age) who lived in 146 nonurban communities in the greater Hartford, CT, region and who were enrolled in a disease-management program (Easy Breathing II; Michelle Cloutier, MD; Hartford, CT) designed to improve asthma diagnosis and treatment.
Results: The overall frequency of physician-confirmed asthma in children seeking health care was 18%. Asthma frequency was related to low socioeconomic status (SES), non-Caucasian ethnicity, male gender, age ≥ 5 years, and exposure to tobacco smoke, dust, or cockroaches in the multivariate analysis. When controlling for SES, African-American children were 1.33 times more likely (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.15 to 1.53) and Hispanic children were 1.60 times as likely (95% CI, 1.38 to 1.85) as Caucasian children to have asthma. In contrast, asthma severity was related to dust exposure, a family history of asthma, non-Caucasian ethnicity, and age ≤ 4 years in the multivariate analysis. African-American children (odds ratio, 1.31; 95% CI, 1.03 to 1.67) had more severe asthma diagnosed as compared to Caucasian children. Hispanic ethnicity was not associated with an increase in asthma severity.
Conclusion: Risk factors for asthma in nonurban children are similar to risk factors in urban children. Ethnicity is a risk factor for asthma regardless of SES. Even in nonurban environments, African-American and Hispanic children have more asthma, and African-American children have more severe disease than their Caucasian counterparts.