The percent rise in the number of asthma deaths was analyzed using data from the National Center of Health Statistics and compared for African-Americans and Caucasians. The rate of increase for African-Americans in the period 1979-1983 was nearly twice that of Caucasians, and the difference among genders for Caucasians was significantly higher for females. In Baltimore a high percentage (29%) of adult asthma patients (86.8% African-American) seen in an emergency room (ER) and living in the inner city had frequent visits (6 or more annually) to the ER. One-third of the patients used the ER exclusively for asthma management, and 39% delayed for at least 48 hr after onset of symptoms before seeking medical assistance. One-fourth had daily symptoms, and 11% of those regularly employed had missed 10 or more days annually because of asthma. Among the high ER users, 39% required more than one annual hospitalization for management of acute exacerbation of asthma symptoms. Risk factors for mortality and morbidity among inner-city and minority populations as well as potential areas of intervention are discussed.