The following is a freelance contribution by Sally Writes
African Americans have a higher rate of being diagnosed with asthma in comparison to white people. Genetic factors, socioeconomic status and its effect on affordable and accessible health care, and air quality are all contributors to the increased incidence. Not only is asthma more prevalent in black people, there are some specific factors that make asthma a much more critical condition.
Acute Asthma Attacks
Asthma itself isn’t caused by poor air quality, but it can be worsened when exposed to allergens and irritants. When things like mold are present, asthma attacks are more severe and frequent because of increased irritation to the lungs and airway. While all asthma is a result of inflammation in the respiratory system, the inflammation present in African Americans is different and unique to them, according to a study by Dr. Sharmilee Nyenhuis. This causes a more critical condition from acute attacks, with blacks being 2-3 times more likely to be hospitalized. Eliminating mold, dander, and other irritants that can cause acute attacks is an important part of managing the condition.
African Americans are not only likely to experience more severe acute attacks, but they are less responsive to conventional medications used for treatment of asthma. Despite taking similar amounts of the same prescription medications, blacks still exhibited the aforementioned unique type of eosinophilic inflammation at an increased rate compared to whites. Evidence suggests that this difference in inflammation may impair the function of typical medications, which was supported by a study conducted at the Chicago school of medicine. This resistance to medication causes the condition to be more difficult to treat. Exploring other treatment options aside from corticosteroids should be a priority for those with difficult-to-treat asthma.
In addition to being difficult to treat due to medication resistance, treating asthma can be more difficult for those that are uninsured or underinsured. Black people are two and a half times more likely to fall below the poverty level; this contributes to a healthcare disparity among those whose employers do not offer coverage, and who cannot afford other options for healthcare. Access to regular check-ups, emergency care, and medication are all vital components in managing asthma. The Affordable Care Act does provide options for those with low-income, but still, people fall through the cracks, causing inconsistent treatment. Subsidies and patient advocacy play essential role in receiving stable care.
There is clearly an unfortunate distinction in the diagnosis and severity of asthma in African Americans. To combat the effects of the condition, it’s important to be armed with the knowledge to control the condition, as well as advocate for proper care and treatment.