Health Disparities

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Health Disparities

Asthma and allergies occur in all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups, but they are more common in African American, Hispanic/Latino and Native American communities, particularly those living in poor urban areas. Health insurance coverage, income levels, and even where people live contribute to disparities in care. Living in a city with high pollution levels, living in an older building with vermin infesting the home, relying on public transportation, and living with mold can contribute to poor management of asthma and disproportionately affect people along racial and ethnic lines. People of color have higher rates of death from asthma and severe allergies, as well as a higher incidence of emergency department visits and hospital stays.

Allergy & Asthma Network is committed to creating and expanding programs to address the imbalance of care for these populations. The Network provides medication assistance programs and bilingual resource guides and addresses health disparities at the federal, state and local level. Advocacy takes many forms, but affordable access to medication, accessible telehealth solutions for those unable to physically see a doctor, accountability from health insurance and pharmaceutical companies, availability of life-saving medications in schools and public places and reduced pollution of air and water are some of the Network’s key legislative issues.

Some important help the Network recently received was a CDC grant and a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Engagement Award. The CDC grant will be used to implement national standard-of-care guidelines for asthma patients aimed at reducing ER visits and hospitalizations. The PCORI engagement award will be used for a virtual symposiums that bring together African American patients, as well as doctors, researchers and faith-based leaders to present research and to discuss the opportunities, gaps and barriers in engaging African American patients in patient-centered research.

The Network also reaches out to at-risk people and underserved communities through its Not One More Life Trusted Messengers program, a joint public-private partnership and large-scare community project that offers free COVID-19 testing, asthma and COPD screenings and patient education.

The current COVID-19 crisis has highlight health disparities, finding that African Americans and Hispanic/Latino populations and Native Americans face significantly higher rates of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Ongoing disparities in physical health and social determinants of health play a role in the number of cases and deaths. Poverty is a significant issue for many racial and ethnic minorities, so some protective measures against COVID-19 may be less feasible. Many may rely on public transportation, have limited access to healthcare, live in close living quarters and may also work in essential jobs, which may increase risk of exposure to the virus.

All of these efforts are the beginning of the Network’s efforts to close the gap in healthcare outcomes along racial lines.