Hispanics in Ohio Burdened by Asthma

(October 25, 2011)

COLUMBUS OH (10/25/2011)(readMedia)-- 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 Ohio and across the country. This report is part of the Lung Association's Disparities in Lung Health Series.

In Ohio, there are 321,000 Hispanics, many of whom may be needlessly suffering from asthma, a severe chronic, or life long, disease that can be serious – even life threatening. According to the Ohio Statewide Latino Survey, asthma was one of the top three health conditions reported by Hispanics. 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.

"Hispanics in Ohio are more likely to be uninsured and in poverty, conditions that put them at greater risk from asthma," said Shelly Kiser, Director of Advocacy for the American Lung Association in Ohio. "The American Lung Association is committed to help address issues that put this population at risk."

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. In 2009, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, 15% of native-born Hispanics in Ohio were uninsured, and 56% of foreign-born Hispanics were uninsured.

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.

"Currently some members of Ohio's Congressional delegation are attempting to roll back existing basic air pollution standards and eliminate any new safeguards in the Clean Air Act which provide protections from air pollution," said Kiser. "Fighting these necessary laws does a great disservice to the Hispanic population in Ohio that is vulnerable to the health consequences of air pollution. Hispanics with asthma deserve the healthy air they need to work, go to school, and breathe without fear of an asthma attack."

Hispanics are also more likely to work in low-paying agriculture, construction and service jobs that rarely provide health benefits and often expose workers to serious respiratory hazards.

Poverty and stress have been shown to affect the body's immune response, increasing inflammation and worsening asthma. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, 35% of Ohio's Hispanic youth and 25% of adults live in poverty compared with 16% and 5% of non-Hispanic Whites, respectively.

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 Ohio provides Spanish language assistance to children and adults with asthma.

• 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.

• An asthma management plan is also available for download. http://www.lung.org/associations/charters/midland-states/program-information/asthma/

• 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.

To download the report visit www.LungUSA.org/Asthma-In-Hispanics