Prevalence of asthma and asthma-like symptoms in inner-city elementary schoolchildren



American inner-city children are disproportionately affected by asthma. During the 1999–2000 school year, we conducted a survey of 6 Bronx, New York City elementary schools to assess the prevalence of asthma and asthma-like symptoms as reported by parents. Children with probable asthma had symptoms within the last 12 months and parents who indicated that their child had asthma. Children with possible asthma had symptoms within the last 12 months but lacked a diagnosis.

Overall, 74% (4,775/6,433) of parents returned completed surveys, identifying 20% (949/4,775) of children as probable asthmatics, and 12% (589/4,775) as possible asthmatics. In multivariate analyses, probable asthma was associated with: Puerto Rican, Black, and white race/ethnicity, male gender, having health insurance, and registration at the poorest school. Possible asthma was associated with lack of health insurance and female gender, but was not associated with any specific race/ethnicity.

Our findings support the effectiveness of school-based surveys to identify children at high risk for asthma. The challenge remains to engage children and families in appropriate follow-up care and to manage their illness, either through the use of school-based health centers or stronger links to community services.Pediatr Pulmonol. 2002; 34:105–111. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.