Prevalence, demographics, and health outcomes of comorbid asthma and overweight in urban children

J Asthma. 2011 Nov;48(9):876-85. doi: 10.3109/02770903.2011.616615. Epub 2011 Sep 29.


Background: Asthma and overweight are epidemic in urban children but the relationship between these conditions is not fully understood. This study presents demographic and risk profiles of comorbidity for overweight asthmatic children, characterizes morbidity by comparing health outcomes among overweight asthmatics and healthy weight asthmatics, and examines socioeconomic factors associated with comorbidity.

Objective: To construct a demographic profile of overweight asthmatic children in an urban setting and identify factors that contribute to prevalence.

Method: Cross-sectional study of 5250 children in New York City public elementary schools using a parent-report questionnaire on body mass index, socioeconomic status, asthma, and asthma-related outcomes.

Results: Prevalence of overweight (body mass index ≥ 85th percentile for age and gender) was 50.9%. The prevalence of overweight and ever being diagnosed with asthma was 10.9%. The prevalence of overweight with current asthma was 6.2%. Overweight current asthmatics had more night symptoms, missed school days, and asthma medication use than healthy weight asthmatics. Almost 50% of overweight current asthmatic children reported emergency department visits for asthma compared with 30% of healthy weight asthmatics. Comorbidity was most prevalent among males, Latinos, and children in low-income households, with the highest prevalence among Puerto Ricans. In multivariate analysis stratified by gender, the most significant factors associated with comorbidity among girls were low income and minority race/ethnicity, while among boys significant factors were parental education and parental history of asthma. Interestingly, there were few underweight children (7.8%) but they had high prevalence of asthma (13.8%).

Conclusions: The comorbidity of overweight and asthma has a large impact on urban populations, causing greater disease burden than asthma alone. Overweight asthmatics show more uncontrolled asthma, evidenced by emergency department visits, quick-relief medication use, and days with asthma symptoms. The relationship between socioeconomic factors and the asthma-obesity comorbidity may vary by gender and requires further study to identify successful interventions to reduce disease in children.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Asthma / complications*
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • New York City
  • Overweight / complications*
  • Overweight / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Urban Health