Objective: Using a unique county-wide resource that links all health care providers' medical records to assess current and "ever" prevalence of physician-diagnosed asthma. To describe the age and sex rates and temporal trends in new asthma diagnoses and associations with race and socio-economic status.
Study design: A longitudinal retrospective evaluation of a population-based cohort of school children using linked medical and school records.
Results: Overall, 17.6% of children in grades kindergarten through 12 had a physician diagnosis of asthma and 12.9% had an asthma-related visit within the past 2 years. An additional 19.7% had visits for reactive airway disease or recurrent wheezing or bronchospasm with no diagnosis of asthma. Children provided with free and reduced-cost lunches had lower cumulative and incident asthma rates from birth through their current school age. Race was not related to rates of physician-diagnosed asthma. There was a significant temporal increase in rates of new asthma diagnoses.
Conclusions: In this community, 1 in 3 children have had a physician-documented recurrent wheezing-type illness, and 1 in 6 were diagnosed with asthma. Diagnoses rates were directly related to socioeconomic status.