Objective: The purposes of this study are to describe and develop preliminary models of the burden of diagnosed asthma and symptoms of possible undiagnosed asthma in a large, citywide, ethnically and socioeconomically diverse sample of Chicago elementary schoolchildren. We hypothesized that considering possible asthma would give a more complete picture of race/ethnic disparities in pediatric asthma.
Methods: We studied 35,583 students aged 6 to 12 years attending Chicago Public and Archdiocese elementary schools for the Chicago Initiative to Raise Asthma Health Equity (CHIRAH) study. The full enrollments of 105 schools were surveyed for asthma and possible undiagnosed asthma by the Brief Pediatric Asthma Screen Plus (BPAS+) respiratory symptoms. The child had to be 6 to 12 years old, the valid age range for the BPAS+. Questionnaires included the BPAS+, basic demographic information, and household asthma information; they were sent home with each schoolchild for completion by the parent and returned to school for collection and scoring.
Results: Overall, 13.9% of students had diagnosed asthma. For children aged 6 to 12 years, rates of diagnosed asthma varied from 13.1% to 14.5%, whereas the rates of possible undiagnosed asthma varied from 14.8% to 10.9%. The rate of diagnosed asthma was 21.2% for African Americans, 9.7% for whites, 11.8% for Hispanics, with similar rates of possible undiagnosed asthma. By multinomial logistic regression, African Americans were more than twice as likely and Hispanics were 1.57 times more likely than whites to have diagnosed asthma at all school district income levels and controlling for other household members with asthma, type of school, age of the child, gender, and language preference. The odds of African Americans being diagnosed with asthma rather than having possible asthma were 76% higher and for Hispanics were 46% higher compared with whites, at all school district income levels and controlling for other household members with asthma, type of school, age of the child, gender, and language preference.
Conclusions: Our study confirms national disparities in diagnosed asthma by race/ethnicity. Respiratory symptoms consistent with possible undiagnosed asthma increase the total potential burden of asthma overall to more than one-quarter of the school enrollees. Among students with respiratory symptoms, African Americans, Hispanics (controlling for language), and families where another person has asthma are more likely to have diagnosed rather than possible asthma. Improved knowledge about asthma, recognition of symptoms, and access to high-quality care are necessary to ascertain how much of the possible undiagnosed asthma represents additional cases of asthma requiring treatment.