Why Your Neighborhood Matters to Your Child’s Lung Health
Asthma affects about 5.5 million children nationwide—but the burden doesn’t fall equally. Some kids, such as those who are Black or Hispanic, face a higher risk.
Researchers are also discovering that where families live plays a role, too. In fact, a new study finds kids in neighborhoods with more crime and lower education levels had greater odds of going to the hospital with an asthma-related problem.
There are many reasons these factors—called social determinants of health—can make asthma worse. For example:
Living in violent areas causes stress, which may change the way the body’s immune system reacts to asthma triggers. This can increase the risk for asthma and worsen symptoms.
Unsafe living conditions make it hard to practice healthy habits, such as exercising, following treatment plans, or getting medications from a pharmacy.
Certain areas have more environmental risk factors for asthma, such as air pollution.
Many communities don’t have enough healthcare providers to serve everyone or to explain conditions like asthma clearly.
People may not always trust providers because of ways they, or their communities, have been harmed in the past. Or they may currently experience discrimination.
Take action against asthma, anywhere
However, identity and geography aren’t set in stone. No matter who you are or where you live, you can take steps to help your child breathe easier, such as:
Finding a health care provider you trust. Look for someone who understands your culture and community. Ask for their help in treating asthma if your child has already been diagnosed. Consider asking to see a specialist.
Kicking the habit. Don’t light up yourself—and keep your child away from other sources of secondhand smoke. If you can’t quit just yet, avoid smoking in your car or home.
Monitoring pollution. Check the Air Quality Index. When air pollution levels are high, keep kids indoors with the windows closed.
Getting involved. Many schools have poor air quality, which worsens asthma. Warning signs include having more symptoms during the school day. Speak to school officials, nurses, and teachers about your child’s asthma. If your school has an indoor air quality committee, join it.
Healthcare experts and public officials are also working to address disparities. Your efforts to care for your family and community make a difference in the bigger picture, too.