Asthma Rates High Among Hispanics

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Staff Writer

Although asthma affects thousands of people each year, there is one demographic in particular that the sickness is more prevalent.

The asthma rate among Hispanics is higher than other ethnicities. According to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health, 3,600,000 Hispanics reported to have asthma in 2011. The same office also said that Hispanics are 30 percent more likely to visit the hospital for asthma compared to non-Hispanic whites.

According to Dr. Patrisha Woolard-Pickens, the director of the Pediatric Department and the head of the Asthma Navigation program at Wyckoff Hospital, said the primary reason for the higher rates among Hispanics is the because of the low social economic status that many of them are in.

She said the poor condition that they most likely live in is the primary reason for getting the disease at a higher rate. Their living conditions, including mice, rats and roaches, attract disease and sickness.

“It’s probably not the race, it’s the conditions that they are living in,” she said.

When they do get sick, Woolard-Pickens said, they are unable to visit the doctor as frequently or as fast to get a diagnosis on the sickness and to help cure it.

Another reason for the increased cases, according to the doctor, is that asthma tends to run in families and can be passed down to their offspring. There are even more reasons for the higher rate that the medical field does not understand yet but is continuing to study, Woolard-Pickens said.

Asthma is the narrowing or blocking of the airways to the lung. People who have the disease often have trouble breathing, experience wheezing and have shortness of breath.

According to a fact sheet about asthma among Latinos created by the Environmental Protection Agency, asthma is the leading chronic disease affecting children in the United States.

Asthma rates have increased over the years, including among children. It has increased 160 percent among four-year-olds and 74 percent among children aged between 5 and 14.

A new program that Wyckoff has started this week is the asthma navigation program.

The program allows medical personnel from the hospital to focus more attention on people who have asthma. They do this by visiting the patient at home, along with a social worker, to see how they are doing in their recovery. The purpose of the social worker, the doctor said, is to analyze the person’s living conditions and see how that can be improved to help the patient’s health related to their asthma and overall.

There will also be facilities at the hospital that are specifically dedicated to patients with asthma, Woolard-Pickens said.

Patients who enroll in the program will also keep two types of diaries: a paper diary and an electronic diary. The paper diary, she said, will primarily be for tracking when they feel any symptoms and the electronic diary is for keeping track of what medicines they have taken.

The program is funded through a grant provided by the State Dept. of Health. It is a three-year grant, paying $1.3 million each year.

Woolard-Pickens said the hope after the three years is that the hospital can continue running the program after the grant expires but it is possible that they could apply for another grant if that is not the case.

Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127,, or @luisgronda.