Does Lung Disease Discriminate?

(March 8, 2010)

Do lung diseases play favorites?  Do they target some groups and spare others?  It may not be that black and white, but a new report just released by the American Lung Association shows that many lung diseases are indeed more common in diverse populations.

Our new report State of Lung Disease in Diverse Communities: 2010 examines disparities found in lung health, as well as, disparities in progress in the fight against lung disease among diverse communities, such as the Asian, Hispanic, African Americans and LGBT communities.

Despite decades of advances in medical technology and research, our report reveals that improvements in lung diseases have not been equally distributed by income, race, ethnicity, education and geography. This report can provide much needed health information that can serve as a catalyst to begin work to address disparities in the fight against lung diseases, including lung cancer, asthma and influenza

The report reveals that diverse communities experience a host of societal challenges that influence lung health – and health overall, such as poverty, proximity to harmful pollution and lack of medical insurance.   

Key findings include:

  • Communities of color are especially vulnerable to the health effects of air pollution, as both African Americans and Hispanics have been found to be more likely than Caucasians to live in areas that are disproportionately located near freeways and other high pollution areas.
  • African Americans are more likely to develop and die of lung cancer than Caucasians, despite lower smoking rates.
  • Hispanics are more likely than any other racial or ethnic group to be employed in high-risk occupations where they are overexposed to occupational respiratory hazards that are associated with lung disease.
  • American Indians and Alaska Natives have the highest rates of smoking among all racial and ethnic groups.

This report is an important tool that can be used locally to raise awareness of these disparities, generate constructive discussion and build partnerships within these affected groups to seek solutions. 

"People within diverse communities are more likely to be uninsured, less likely to have a regular health care provider and, in turn, suffer from poor health.  They are also more likely to die prematurely," said Mary Partridge, Chair of the Board of Directors of the American Lung Association.  "These differences, if not addressed, will continue to impair healthcare within the United States."

There are things we can do to begin to level the playing field, when it comes to healthy lungs.  You can download the report and use it as a starting point to begin the discussion in your community, and build partnership that can address the problem. 

You can also join us at the American Lung Association and support our fight for healthy lungs and healthy air.  You can become an advocate, volunteer, or make a donation to support our medical research and other lifesaving initiatives.  Together we can begin to close this unnecessary gap in lung health.