OBJECTIVES: To outline the prevalence and disparities of asthma among school-aged urban minority youth, causal pathways through which poorly controlled asthma adversely affects academic achievement, and proven or promising approaches for schools to address these problems.
METHODS: Literature review.
RESULTS: Asthma is the most common chronic disease affecting youth in the United States; almost 10 million youth under 18 (14%) have received a diagnosis and 6.8 million (9%) have active asthma. Average annual prevalence estimates were approximately 45% higher for Black versus White children (12.8% vs. 8.8%), as were average annual estimates of asthma attacks (8.4% vs. 5.8%). Urban minority youth have highly elevated prevalence of poorly controlled asthma as evidenced by overuse of emergency departments and under-use of efficacious medications. Poorly controlled asthma has functional consequences on cognition, connectedness with school, and absenteeism. Exemplary asthma programs include management and support systems, school health and mental health services, asthma education, healthy school environments, physical education and activity, and coordination of school, family, and community efforts.
CONCLUSIONS: Asthma and, more importantly, poorly controlled asthma are highly and disproportionately prevalent among school-aged urban minority youth, has a negative impact on academic achievement through its effects on cognition, school connectedness, and absenteeism, and effective practices are available for schools to address this problem. To reduce the adverse effects of poorly controlled asthma on learning, a multifaceted approach to asthma control and prevention in which schools can and must play a central role is essential.