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Minority children living in public housing are more likely to suffer from chronic health problems

Nearly two million children live in U.S. public housing communities, and over two-thirds of them are black or Latino. A study supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS14022) found that black and Latino children living in such communities are 2 to 4 times more likely than children in the general population to suffer from chronic physical and mental problems. Researchers found that Black and Latino children living in three Los Angeles public housing communities were more likely than U.S. children in general to suffer from asthma (32 percent compared with 8 percent) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (17 percent compared with 5 percent).

Nearly one-third of black and Latino households had children with one chronic medical condition, and another third had children with two or more chronic conditions. The top five chronic conditions reported by parents for one or more children in their households were asthma (32 percent), eye/vision problems (24 percent), ADHD (17 percent), dental problems (16 percent), and depression (8 percent). Asthma was the only health condition for which the researchers found a significant difference between Latino (19 percent) and black (44 percent) children.

The researchers call for studies to determine whether children in public housing suffer from excessive health problems because of the criteria and eligibility for public housing, or whether the public housing environment is responsible for unhealthy children.

More details are in "A profile of chronic mental and physical conditions among African-American and Latino children in urban public housing," by Mohsen Bazargan, Ph.D., Jose L. Calderon, M.D., Kevin C. Heslin, Ph.D., and others, in the Autumn 2005 Ethnicity & Disease 15 (Suppl. 5), pp. S5-3-S5-9.

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