The continuing problem of asthma in very young children: a community-based participatory research project

J Sch Health. 2009 May;79(5):209-15. doi: 10.1111/j.1746-1561.2009.00400.x.


Background: Asthma is a chronic health condition that has a disproportionate effect on low-income minority children who reside in large urban areas. African-American children report significantly higher rates than the general population of children and have more-severe asthma and poorer outcomes. This article describes the prevalence of asthma in a particularly vulnerable group: children aged 2-5 participating in Detroit Head Start programs.

Methods: Health screens were distributed to caretakers of all children attending 6 Head Start agencies. Caretakers of children identified with active asthma symptoms were asked to complete an in-depth phone interview regarding their child's asthma.

Results: Data collected from 3,254 children (78% African American) revealed that 27% met criteria for probable asthma. Of those with persistent symptoms, 26% were undiagnosed, and 21% were untreated. Baseline data (n = 675) showed that 95% had a regular doctor, but 36% had had no health care visit for asthma in the previous year. Of children with a history of asthma episodes, more than half reported 3 or more episodes in the preceding year. Forty-three percent of caretakers had discussed their child's asthma with Head Start, and 31% had an asthma action plan on file with Head Start.

Conclusions: Asthma remains a significant problem in this population, especially for African Americans, as evidenced by high levels of undiagnosed children with persistent symptoms and questions regarding the care they receive. Head Start is a way to reach young children with asthma, but may need help to develop the capacity to assist families.

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / diagnosis
  • Asthma / drug therapy
  • Asthma / epidemiology
  • Asthma / ethnology*
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Black or African American
  • Child, Preschool
  • Community Participation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Michigan / epidemiology
  • Research*