Hispanics in New York Burdened by Asthma

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

(October 25, 2011)

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/Latino population in New York state and across the country.  This report is part of the Lung Association’s Disparities in Lung Health Series

 

In New York state there are more than 3 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. 

 

“Here in the New York City Metropolitan area, it’s very true that a number of Hispanics are more likely to live near busy roads and highways which can aggravate asthma,” said Luis Rodriguez, MD, board member at the American Lung Association in New York and pediatric pulmonologist at Woodhull Medical Center in Brooklyn.”People need to be aware that if they’re having trouble breathing, they should seek medical advice. We hope this report will raise awareness among Hispanics that asthma is a major health threat and prompt those who’ve been having difficulty to visit their doctor.  When properly managed, patients with asthma can enjoy a good quality of life. But when it’s not diagnosed and not managed, it can become a real problem leading to emergency room visits and even tragic death.”

 

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.  In New York State, the greatest number of Hispanics live in the New York metropolitan area and these counties have some of the worst air pollution in the state.  In the Lung Association’s 2011 State of the Air Report, the New York City metropolitan area ranked 17th on the top 25 list of U.S. cities most polluted by ozone and 25th on the top 25 list of U.S. cities most polluted for annual particle pollution. Bronx County was the only county in the state to receive an F for short-term particle pollution. New York County earned an F for ozone and received a passing grade for annual particle pollution.  On Long Island, which is also home to a large Hispanic population, Suffolk County had the worst ozone pollution in the state.

They are also more likely to work in low-paying service, construction and agricultural 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.  At 22 percent, more Hispanics in this country live below the poverty level compared to the U.S. average of 12.5 percent. In New York State, the percentage is even higher with 24.5 percent of Hispanics living below the poverty level.

“Many factors have direct impact on health,”  said Berta Cevallos, President & CEO BML Language Consultants LLC.  “For Limited English Proficient (LEP)populations, including Latinos, cultural and language barriers are one of the most difficult challenges to overcome.  Regardless of health insurance coverage or the ability to access healthcare, the lack of appropriate language access services prevents effective communication, ultimately contributing to the increase of conditions, such as asthma.   Pronto of Long Island serves a large number of  LEP community members and has proactively worked to eliminate language and cultural barriers.   One of the most significant initiatives is its partnership with the Asthma Coalition of Long Island and the American Lung Association in New York who have provided education and materials in the language the community understands .”

 

 

The American Lung Association in New York State provides Spanish language assistance to children and adults with asthma in communities across the state. The Lung Association in New York offers this assistance through its Open Airways For Schools ® program and through its work with community partners.

 

·         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 detailed 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 Kathleen O’Neill at (518) 465-2013 x 322.  Or, to find out more about any of the American Lung Association’s asthma programs, please contact Liz D’Imperio at (212) 889-3370 x 20.  To download a copy of the report, visit: Lung.org/Asthma-In-Hispanics.