The role of housing type and housing quality in urban children with asthma

J Urban Health. 2010 Mar;87(2):211-224. doi: 10.1007/s11524-009-9404-1. Epub 2010 Jan 9.


The goal of this study was to assess the relationship between type and quality of housing and childhood asthma in an urban community with a wide gradient of racial/ethnic, socioeconomic, and housing characteristics. A parent-report questionnaire was distributed in 26 randomly selected New York City public elementary schools. Type of housing was categorized using the participants' addresses and the Building Information System, a publicly-accessible database from the New York City Department of Buildings. Type of housing was associated with childhood asthma with the highest prevalence of asthma found in public housing (21.8%). Residents of all types of private housing had lower odds of asthma than children living in public housing. After adjusting for individual- and community-level demographic and economic factors, the relationship between housing type and childhood asthma persisted, with residents of private family homes having the lowest odds of current asthma when compared to residents of public housing (odds ratio: 0.51; 95% confidence interval, 0.22, 1.21). Factors associated with housing quality explain some of the clustering of asthma in public housing. For example, the majority (68.7%) of public housing residents reported the presence of cockroaches, compared to 21% of residents of private houses. Reported cockroaches, rats, and water leaks were also independently associated with current asthma. These findings suggest differential exposure and asthma risk by urban housing type. Interventions aimed at reducing these disparities should consider multiple aspects of the home environment, especially those that are not directly controlled by residents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution, Indoor
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Databases as Topic
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Housing*
  • Humans
  • New York City / epidemiology
  • Odds Ratio
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Urban Health*