Background: Large racial differences in asthma morbidity and mortality have prompted research on new interventions, public awareness, and health policy efforts in the past decade.
Objective: We sought to characterize recent trends in US asthma hospitalization and mortality for black and white children and adults during the period from 1980 through 2002.
Methods: We conducted a successive representative national cohort study of US residents ages 5 to 34 years using data from the National Hospital Discharge Survey and the US vital statistics system. Outcome measures included black/white (B/W) asthma hospitalization and mortality rates, rate ratios, and rate differences.
Results: For asthma hospitalizations from 1980 through 2002, children ages 5 to 18 years had a 50% increase in the B/W rate ratio, and the rate difference increased from 22.8 to 28.3 hospitalizations per 10,000 population. For young adults ages 19 to 34 years, the B/W rate ratio increased from 2.3 to 2.8, and the rate difference decreased from 9.6 to 7.9 hospitalizations per 10,000 population. For asthma mortality from 1980 through 2001, children ages 5 to 19 years had a large increase in the B/W rate ratio from 4.5 to 5.6 and in the rate difference from 5.6 to 8.1 deaths per 1,000,000 population. There did not appear to be a significant change in the B/W differences for adults ages 20 to 34 years.
Conclusions: For children, there have been notable increases in asthma B/W differences in hospitalizations and mortality since 1980, whereas for adults the increase has been smaller. National efforts to improve asthma care over the past decade do not appear to have reduced this B/W gap. When treating children with asthma, it is important to consider the racial-ethnic factors that might lead to avoidable hospitalizations and premature mortality.