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For Immediate Release:
May 03, 2001
For more information contact:
DHS Communications
(213) 240-8144 Pager: (213) 990-7107

Survey Examines Effects of Asthma on Los Angeles County Children
May 3 Marks First Asthma Awareness Day in California

LOS ANGELES - African American children in Los Angeles County are more likely to have asthma (16%) compared to whites (7%), Asians/Pacific Islanders (6%), or Latinos (4%), according to a recent survey sponsored by the County's Department of Health Services (DHS). Overall, 6% of Los Angeles County children, aged 0-17, have asthma; this figure is comparable to national statistics.

"Asthma is the most common chronic condition in childhood and a leading cause of childhood hospitalizations," said Jonathan E. Fielding, M.D., M.P.H., Director of Public Health and County Health Officer. "Children with asthma suffer a significant burden. Asthma can limit their normal activities and lead to serious complications including pneumonia, impaired growth and development, and even death."

The survey found that about one-third of asthmatic children (age 0-5) and three-fifths of asthmatic school-aged children (age 6-17) have limited physical activity due to their disease. African Americans and Latinos with asthma are more likely to report activity limitation (62% and 61% respectively) than whites (36%).

Among asthmatic children, 60% of 0 to 5-year-olds and 48% of 6 to 17-year-olds visited an emergency room or urgent care facility in the past year as a result of asthma. Of asthmatic children, more African American (68%) and Latino (64%) children reported visiting an emergency room or urgent care facility than whites (25%). The numbers were too small to assess the percentage for Asians/Pacific Islanders. The study also found that 89% of children diagnosed with asthma had health insurance and 95% had a regular source of health care.

"While these results are positive for the children that have been diagnosed with the disease, they also suggest there may be children with asthma that remains undiagnosed because they have less access to health care," said Paul Simon, M.D., M.P.H. Chief of Health Assessment and Epidemiology, the office that developed the survey "For example, only 3% of children who are uninsured have been diagnosed with asthma compared to 7% of children who have private insurance. Without access to care, these children continue to suffer from the disease and remain unaware of ways to improve their condition."

County teams up with community to provide asthma services

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation (Southern California Chapter), has been awarded $435K from the California Department of Health Services to work with the county health department and community-based organizations to bring asthma services to children living in the downtown and south central areas of the county; approximately 45% of the County's African American children live in these areas. The announcement was made in conjunction with Thursday, May 3, a day proclaimed "Asthma Awareness Day" by Governor Gray Davis.

Agencies already serving children through lead screening or perinatal home visitation will identify asthmatic children and a coordinator (a low-income community resident trained as a health promoter) will visit the child's home to educate the parents, assess the home for asthma triggers (dust, mold, and second-hand smoke), refer the family to low-cost health care, and assist the family to enroll for health coverage programs.

Community-based providers as well as the Breathmobile, a nationally recognized program providing mobile asthma screening and treatment to high-risk children in school will provide medical treatment. The Breathmobile is already in operation in Los Angeles County and is run by the LAC+USC Medical Center in conjunction with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation and the Los Angeles Unified School District. Project staff will work with families to ensure that they understand and implement the treatment plans as well as get any other needed resources.

San Fernando Valley Project

The county health department and the American Lung Association (ALA) of Los Angeles County are partners in two programs that work directly with asthmatic children and their families through local schools. "Open Airways for Schools" is a program teaching students how to manage their disease more effectively; parents and family members, classmates and school staff also participate in the six sessions.

"Tools for Schools" is an indoor air quality assessment program designed to help schools prevent pollution problems before they occur and prioritize and fix existing indoor air quality problems using low- or no-cost means. Both programs are offered free of charge. California DHS has also awarded the ALA $223K to work with the Northeast Valley Health Corporation and the county health department to improve the management of asthma among children (age 0-5) living in the San Fernando Valley.

The Los Angeles County Health Survey is a biennial population-based telephone survey of approximately 8,000 households in the County, examining health and health-related issues for adults and children. It was first conducted in 1997 and again between September 1999 and April 2000. The Field Research Corporation conducted the survey for DHS with support from the California Department of Health Services and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services.