Asthma is the most common chronic childhood disease and has become considerably more prevalent and severe in the United States during the last 40 years. The observed symptoms - wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath - are a result of an inflammatory response in the airways. Genetic, environmental, and social risk factors for asthma have been established, but an exact cause is unknown. Recurring episodes of breathing problems, known as "asthma attacks," are frightening, disruptive to daily life, and have the potential to be fatal.
In recent years the number of children diagnosed with asthma has dramatically increased. Asthma disproportionately affects urban youth, especially African Americans, who have among the highest asthma-related morbidity and mortality rates of any United States racial/ethnic group. In Washington, DC, more than one in ten children currently has asthma, which is well above the national average1. There is a clear need for alternative medical perspectives on the causes and treatment of asthma.
The asthma research group’s work is focused in Washington, DC, where the target population is largely minority and disadvantaged: 71 percent of youth younger than 18 years and 52 percent of adults are non-Hispanic African Americans. Addressing this poorly-served population is significant and representative of urban settings around the country. The majority of Washington, DC, African American youth with asthma are seen at Children’s National, including more than 85 percent of all acute or emergency department visits and more than 95 percent of all hospital admissions. Studies are urgently needed to identify effective and sustainable strategies for reducing the dramatic health disparities experienced by disadvantaged, urban, and minority youth with asthma.
Research studies and programs focused on asthma include:
1 American Lung Association. Trends in asthma morbidity and mortality. August 2007.
Faculty with interests in asthma include: