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  • Publication # 14-RA003

Racial-ethnic differences exist in use of asthma controller medications

Disparities/Minority Health

Asthma is a common chronic disease in children. Treatment guidelines and new medications have improved asthma care. Most patients use a controller on a daily basis to reduce airway inflammation and the onset of symptoms such as tight chest and breathing difficulty. 

Black and Hispanic children are less likely to use controllers compared to white children, concludes a study by AHRQ researchers, Eric M. Sarpong, Ph.D., and G. Edward Miller, Ph.D. They examined racial and ethnic differences in asthma controller use among insured children by analyzing data on 853 white children, 646 black children, and 665 Hispanic children with asthma between 2005 and 2008. Census data provided additional socioeconomic information. 

Photograph shows a little girl using an asthma inhaler.Children were identified who used controller medications any time during the year. Black children (8.5 percent) were more likely than white (6.3 percent) and Hispanic children (5.8 percent) to be treated for asthma. However, among children who were treated for asthma, only 44.1 percent of blacks and 49.8 percent of Hispanics used controllers on a consistent basis compared to 67.9 percent of whites.

In addition, publicly insured white children (59.6 percent) were significantly less likely to use controllers than their privately insured counterparts (70.3 percent). Characteristics associated with controller use include younger children, living with native parents, living in neighborhoods where at least 1 percent receives public assistance, living with married parents, having fair or poor health, and receiving treatment for allergies. Factors associated with poor controller use include black race-ethnicity, female, living in places where at least 1 percent have incomplete plumbing facilities, and living in low-income households. 

The researchers call for additional interventions to improve awareness of asthma treatment options, increase the demand for recommended asthma medications, and reduce the costs of care for low-income families. 

See "Racial and ethnic differences in childhood asthma treatment in the United States," by Drs. Sarpong and Miller in the December 2013 HSR: Health Services Research 48(6,pt1), pp. 2014-2036.


Page last reviewed January 2014
Internet Citation: Racial-ethnic differences exist in use of asthma controller medications: Disparities/Minority Health. January 2014. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.


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