Asthma impacts a population in many ways. Since many people are able to manage their symptoms or no longer experience symptoms, the number of people who have been diagnosed with asthma is different from the number of people who currently experience severe symptoms. To understand the complete asthma burden in California, it's important to look at how many people have actually been diagnosed with asthma (lifetime asthma prevalence), how many are currently experiencing asthma attacks (current asthma prevalence), how people are using the healthcare system to manage their asthma, and the economic costs associated with asthma.
Different segments of the population bear a disproportionate burden of asthma. These disparities are significant by race and ethnicity, income, gender, age, and geographic location:
- American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) adults have the highest asthma prevalence of any racial/ethnic groups, 40% higher than among whites.
- Compared to Whites, asthma hospitalization and ED visit rates are about four times higher for Blacks and asthma death rates are two times higher for Blacks.
- Asthma disparities also exist within subgroups of broader race/ethnicity categories. There are variations in asthma prevalence within the Hispanic ethnic group. Lifetime asthma prevalence ranges from 35.8% among Puerto Ricans (2.3 times higher than among Whites) to 6.5% among South Americans.
The reasons for these disparities are not fully understood. They may be influenced by characteristics related to country of birth, residential history, generational status, and/or degree of acculturation.