Purpose: The goal of this study was to assess the relationship between hospitalization rates and asthma prevalence in New York City children and investigate the role that sociodemographic factors play in asthma.
Methods: A parent-report questionnaire was distributed in 26 randomly selected New York City public elementary schools, stratified according to neighborhood hospitalization rates.
Results: The overall student response rate was 76.9% (5250 students). Prevalence of current asthma was 17.9%, 9.59%, 6.39% (p < .001) in areas of high, median, and low asthma hospitalization rates, respectively. The overall prevalence of current asthma was 13.0%. Children living in predominantly low socioeconomic status (SES) communities had a 70% greater risk of current asthma, independent of their own ethnicity and income level. Asthma prevalence within different ethnic and income groups was consistently lower in neighborhoods of greater socioeconomic status, except among Puerto Rican children, who had high asthma prevalence, regardless of school attended or income.
Conclusions: Prevalence of current asthma is strongly associated with attending a school in a low-income neighborhood. Although hospitalization rates have been used as an indicator of the burden of asthma in a neighborhood, it alone does not reflect the level of disparities that exist among communities with different socioeconomic backgrounds.