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Asthma Rates on Rise for Poor Children

As the overall asthma rate among U.S. children drops, the country's poorest continue to see growing rates, according to the CDC. (iStockphoto)
As the overall asthma rate among U.S. children drops, the country's poorest continue to see growing rates, according to the CDC. (iStockphoto)
December 31, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. - Asthma rates for most children in the U.S. appear to be on the decline, but among the country's poorest children those rates are actually rising.

According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers found what they call a "significantly increasing" trend of asthma prevalence among children who are living below the federal poverty line.

This comes just a few months after the Annie E. Casey foundation found that North Dakota had the third-largest increase nationwide in child poverty rates. Renae Sisk is state school nurse consultant with the North Dakota Department of Health. She says there is help available for low-income families who need medical coverage.

"The Affordable Care Act, which is always an option if families don't have health care coverage and prescription med coverage at this time," says Sisk. "That's an option to check out. You never know, there might be something that fits your family well."

The CDC report, published this week in the journal Pediatrics, looked at more than 150,000 children. In addition to those who are poor, researchers found higher rates of asthma among 10 to 17 year olds, and those living in the South.

Dr. Cary Sennett is president of the non-profit Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. He says several complex factors could be to blame for the apparent uptick in asthma rates for underprivileged children.

"Quality of the home environment, quality of the school environment that are more challenging for children in poor communities, and some of those relate directly to pollution in urban centers," says Sennett.

The good news from the CDC report, however, shows that overall asthma rates in children under 18 leveled out in 2009 and then started to drop just a bit in 2013 to about eight percent, down a full point from the year before.

Still, Sennett says more than 6 million children in America are living with the chronic disease. One way he suggests to help is by expanding preventative medical coverage for those who can't afford it.

"Children who are exposed to these things end up in the emergency room, they end up in the hospital," Sennett says. "The cost of preventing that is far less than the cost of the medical care associated with it."

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - ND