Asthma plagues 38% OF NYC homeless children, shelter STUDY finds

Tom Boland (
Sun, 9 May 1999 08:54:19 -0700 (PDT),1249,80002515,00.html?
FWD  New York Times News Service - Sat May 08, 1999


A study has found that at least 38 percent of homeless children in the
city's shelters have asthma, more than six times the national rate and more
than double the rate found by an earlier study of some of the city's
poorest neighborhoods.

Moreover, only 9 percent of the asthmatic homeless children were on proper
medication, said Dr. Diane McLean, the author of the study and director of
the childhood asthma initiative of the Children's Health Fund. The results
have been presented at professional meetings over the last few days.

In another sign of inadequate treatment, almost half the children already
found to have asthma had made at least one trip to a hospital emergency
room in the previous year because of the disorder, an irritation of the
lungs that, if improperly treated, can cause chronic breathing impairment
and even death.

Dr. Suzanne Hurd, director of the division of lung diseases at the National
Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, said that even though poor children in big
cities are disproportionately affected by asthma, she found the "terribly
high rates" the study documented surprising.

"It's of great concern," Hurd said, calling the study's indications of
undertreatment particularly important. "If these children had good medical
care and someone showing them how to use their medication, they should do
very well."

The study was based on checks from July through September last year of all
393 children who entered two New York City family shelters, one in Queens
and one in the Bronx. Because families all over the city are randomly
assigned to the shelters as space becomes available, the researchers
consider these children representative of the 8,685 children in 4,900
families who are in the city's shelter system in any given month.

For reasons that remain unclear to researchers, the prevalence of asthma is
rising worldwide. But the problem is most acute in cities, where studies
have found it to be aggravated by poverty, exposure to factors like
cockroach feces, dust mites, mold, dampness, rat and mouse urine and
crowded living conditions.

The last national survey, in 1996, reported that 6.3 percent of children in
the United States have asthma. A survey conducted that year in association
with a seven-city study by researchers at the Albert Einstein College of
Medicine put the highest childhood asthma rate in poor sections of the
Bronx at just under 15 percent.

The highest asthma rate reported by any previous study in New York City was
the 21 to 23 percent found last year in three elementary schools in the
Hunts Point section of the Bronx.


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