Hispanics in California Disproportionately Burdened by Asthma

American Lung Association Issues New Report in its Disparities in Lung Health Series

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 25, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Lung Association released a new report today, Luchando por el Aire: The Burden of Asthma on Hispanics, which provides an overview of the complex biological, environmental, political and cultural factors that increase asthma's burden on the Hispanic population in Los Angeles and across the country.  The report is part of the Lung Association's Disparities in Lung Health Series.

The state of California is home to nearly thirteen million Hispanics, many of whom may be needlessly suffering from asthma, a severe chronic, or life long, disease that can be serious – even life threatening.  There is no cure for asthma, but it is manageable and treatable.

The Spanish title of this new report is the best translation of "fighting for air," an experience that is all too common among Hispanics with asthma.  Compared to non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics with asthma are less likely to be in the care of a regular doctor or clinic; less likely to be prescribed appropriate medicines; less likely to have access to specialized care; and more likely to end up being treated in the emergency department or hospitalized in a crisis.

"Some Hispanics face social and economic disadvantages that make them less able to manage their asthma," says Jane Warner, President and CEO of the American Lung Association in California. "Hispanics make up thirty-seven percent of the population in California and it is critical that we address the burden of asthma as it grows with the population."

Unfortunately, more than 25 percent of Hispanics in the U.S. lack a regular source of medical care, and when they get sick they are more likely to end up being treated in the emergency department or hospitalized.  Although Hispanics are only 16 percent of the U.S. population, they account for nearly one-third of people who do not have health insurance nationwide.

When it comes to managing their asthma, Hispanics also face other burdens that are due to the environment, poverty and stress.  For example, Hispanics are 165 percent more likely to live in counties with unhealthy levels of particulate matter pollution, and 51 percent more likely to live in counties with unhealthy levels of ozone compared to non-Hispanic whites. California is home to some of the most polluted air in the nation, with over 90 percent of residents living in counties with unhealthy air during some parts of the year. California's air quality challenges stem from population, heavy dependency on petroleum for transportation, as well as climate and geographic conditions. Poverty and stress have been shown to affect the body's immune response, increasing inflammation and worsening asthma.  More than 33 percent of Hispanics in Los Angeles live below the poverty level.

According to Fernando Pineda-Reyes, CEO of CREA Results, whose organization of Promotores de Salud/Community Health Workers seeks to raise awareness and education on health issues in the Latino community, "Asthma is a frightening disease for individuals in the Hispanic community, especially when language barriers are present.  That's why the Lung Association asthma management programs provide much-needed help to people in our community suffering from asthma."

The American Lung Association in California provides Spanish language assistance to children and adults with asthma via several programs including:

  • Breathe Well, Live Well is an adult asthma self-management program led by an American Lung Association-trained Facilitator offered in a small group setting.  The workshop teaches adults the knowledge and self management skills necessary to take control of asthma.  Spanish-language materials are also available for download.
  • The American Lung Association's Open Airways For Schools is a school-based curriculum available in Spanish that educates and empowers children through a fun and interactive approach to asthma self-management.  It teaches children with asthma ages 8-11 how to detect the warning signs of asthma, avoid their triggers and make decisions about their health. 
  • The Lung HelpLine, 1-800-LUNG-USA, offers one-on-one support from Spanish-speaking registered nurses and respiratory therapists.  Individuals have the opportunity to seek guidance on asthma control and find out how to participate in Lung Association asthma programs, Breathe Well, Live Well and Open Airways For Schools.    

In addition to expanding the Lung Association's capability to provide its programs to members of the Hispanic community, there are also several other action steps to help reduce the burden of asthma and help everyone breathe easier.  These steps are details in the full report, and include making sure that federal agencies continue to aggressively implement the Affordable Care Act; that the CDC continue to fund the National Asthma Control Program; and for public and private funders to increase the investment in disparities-related research.  

For more information about Luchando por el Aire: The Burden of Asthma on Hispanics, please contact Maria Bernabe at [email protected] or 213-384-5864.  To download a copy of the report, visit: LungUSA.org/Asthma-In-Hispanics.  

About the American Lung Association
Now in its second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. With your generous support, the American Lung Association is "Fighting for Air" through research, education and advocacy. For more information about the American Lung Association or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or visit www.LungUSA.org.

Note to Editors: To download the report, visit www.LungUSA.org/Asthma-In-Hispanics

Contact:  Maria Bernabe, [email protected], 213-384-5864 ext. 243

SOURCE American Lung Association in California