According to a widely accepted theory, asthma is more likely to affect the inner-city children owing to the locality. However, a new study has contradicted this common belief revealing that race, ethnicity and income have a stronger impact on the risks of developing asthma. Researchers of Johns Hopkins Children’s Center examined more than 23,000 children between the ages 6 and 17 across the United States for the study. It was found that among inner-city children the asthma rate was 13 percent and among those dwelling in suburban or rural areas it was 11 percent. However, on including other variables, this small difference vanished. The study has been published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
Children belonging to poor families as well as to certain racial groups are more likely to develop asthma. Asthma rates were found to be 20 percent for Puerto Ricans, 17 percent for blacks, 10 percent for whites, 9 percent for other Hispanics and 8 percent for Asians. Lead investigator Dr. Corrine Keet, a pediatric allergy and asthma specialist stated “Our results highlight the changing face of pediatric asthma and suggest that living in an urban area is, by itself, not a risk factor for asthma.” Keet further added “Instead, we see that poverty and being African American or Puerto Rican are the most potent predictors of asthma risk.”
For about 50 years it was believed that certain features of inner-city life like pollution, exposure to indoor smoke, cockroach and other pest allergens increases the risk of asthma. These are indeed the contributing factors to some extent but these are no longer restricted to inner-city areas. Suburban and rural areas witness more poverty and ethnic minorities are also moving out of inner cities. Senior author Dr. Elizabeth Matsui, a pediatric asthma specialist and associate professor of pediatrics and epidemiology at Hopkins stated “Our findings suggest that focusing on inner cities as the epicenters of asthma may lead physicians and public health experts to overlook newly emerging ‘hot zones’ with high asthma rates.”