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Asthma has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. As many as 15 million people are affected by this chronic disease, including 4.8 million children. Asthma is a serious and growing health problem for children and young adults. In California, prevalence is highest among children 12 - 17. Asthma prevalence varies greatly among populations and is higher in urban low- income and minority communities, such as African-Americans. According to a recent survey, African-Americans in Contra Costa County (CCC) are four times more likely to be hospitalized for asthma compared to white, non- Hispanic children.

Asthma can be a debilitating and life-threatening disease without appropriate diagnosis and treatment. Limited access to health care, lack of effective education about asthma management, and exposure to triggers such as smoking and other air pollutants are three key factors increasing the severity of this problem in our community.

Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases affecting children in the U.S. Asthma can be dangerous to children, severely affecting their ability to learn, speak, eat and play.

  • The prevalence of asthma has been increasing steadily over the past 20 years with the largest increases in asthma among children under the age of five (Landrigan et al., 2004, Environmental Health Perspectives, 112 (2): 257-265).
  • About 1 in 8 Californians report that they have been diagnosed with asthma (California Health Interview Survey, 2001).
  • Numerous areas in the County have child hospitalization rates higher than the state average. Some communities, such as Richmond, have child hospitalization rates nearly twice as high as the state average, a sign of health disparities within the County. (Office of Statewide Development and Planning, CA Dept. of Health Services, 2000)
  • A recent study identified 11 communities at risk for Asthma within CCC, which represented 63% of the county's people of color and 44% of its low-income households (TALC, 2003).
  • About one in five African-American children have asthma overall. In addition, the asthma prevalence among foster children has been about three times the national average (Halfon et al., 1995, Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 149: 386-392).
  • Asthma is the #1 cause of school absenteeism in children in the U.S., and results in missed workdays and lost productivity in adults. (National Health Interview Survey, 2001; Mannino et al., 2002, MMWR, 50 (SS01): 1-13)
  • The total cost of asthma in California was estimated to be $1.27 billion in 1998 (Allergy & Asthma Foundation of America).
  • Hospitalizations, physicians' services, and medications have represented the largest direct medical expenditures for asthma in the U.S. (Weiss, Sullivan, Lyttle. 2000. Trends in the cost of illness for asthma in the United States, 1985-1994. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 106(3): 493-499)
  • Emergency room visits and hospitalizations for asthma are a significant burden in Contra Costa County and throughout the state. (CA Dept. of Health Services, 2003).
  • Asthma is the leading cause for children's emergency medical visits in major cities and metropolitan areas of the U.S. (Landrigan et al., 2004, Environmental Health Perspectives, 112 (2): 257-265)

To address these issues the CCC Asthma Coalition was formed in Fall 2001.

"The Contra Costa Asthma Coalition is an inclusive, broad-based partnership of organizations and individuals whose mission is to strengthen Contra Costa County's ability to prevent asthma and improve the lives of people affected by asthma. It does this by: Helping asthma-related organizations to learn from each other, coordinate their services, and enhance the continuum of care; Promoting public education and programs that are responsive to the needs of the community [and reduce health disparities], and; Advocating for improved local, state, and federal asthma programs, policies and legislation."

Contra Costa County Asthma Coalition Member Activities

  • The American Lung Association will conduct asthma education in-services in Head Start and pre-schools beginning in April 2004.
  • West County Asthma Coalition - Free, in-home asthma trigger check-ups conducted by lay community advocates are available to West County residents starting in May 2004.
  • Contra Costa Health Services, Child Health Disability Prevention Program's Pediatric Asthma Provider Training occurred on April 21 in San Pablo for Asthma Awareness Month.
  • JMMDHS/ Community Health Alliance and Respiratory Services departments began asthma in-service programs for Mt. Diablo Unified School District school staff and personnel in fall 2003 and are continuing this outreach in 2004. The goal is to provide teachers, staff, and administrators with education and tools they can utilize to support the asthmatic child.
  • The Public Health Clinic Services Asthma Program provides assistance to asthmatic children (under 21) and their families at their homes, at public schools, and at ambulatory care clinics.
  • Contra Costa Health Plan registered nurses provide asthma care management, home trigger assessments, phone and in-home education, and parent and staff training.
  • Brookside Community Health Center and La Clinica de La Raza provide medical and care management services for adults and children with asthma, seeking to improve their health outcomes through quality, coordinated services.
  • The Regional Asthma Management Program (RAMP) held workshops for local coalitions in winter 2003-04 on "Asthma and Diesel" and "Asthma and School Indoor Air Quality."

These activities were funded in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the California Endowment, Kaiser Permanente, John Muir/Mt. Diablo Health System, and the Environmental Protection Agency

For further asthma information, please see our Links page.

Asthma - What you should know, what you can do
English (155k PDF, 2pp.) | Español (247k PDF, 2pp.)

Content provided by the Asthma Program of Contra Costa Health Services.

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