Introduction: Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood and is the most common cause of school absenteeism due to chronic conditions. The objective of this study is to estimate direct and indirect costs of asthma in school-age children.
Methods: Using data from the 1996 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, we estimated direct medical costs and school absence days among school-age children who had treatment for asthma during 1996. We estimated indirect costs as costs of lost productivity arising from parents' loss of time from work and lifetime earnings lost due to premature death of children from asthma. All costs were calculated in 2003 dollars.
Results: In 1996, an estimated 2.52 million children aged five to 17 years received treatment for asthma. Direct medical expenditure was 1009.8 million dollars (401 dollars per child with asthma), including payments for prescribed medicine, hospital inpatient stay, hospital outpatient care, emergency room visits, and office-based visits. Children with treated asthma had a total of 14.5 million school absence days; asthma accounts for 6.3 million school absence days (2.48 days per child with asthma). Parents' loss of productivity from asthma-related school absence days was 719.1 million dollars (285 dollars per child with asthma). A total of 211 school-age children died of asthma during 1996, accounting for 264.7 dollars million lifetime earnings lost (105 dollars per child with asthma). Total economic impact of asthma in school-age children was 1993.6 million dollars (791 dollars per child with asthma).
Conclusion: The economic impact of asthma on school-age children, families, and society is immense, and more public health efforts to better control asthma in children are needed.