2 tables omitted
During 1980-1999, asthma prevalence, morbidity, and mortality increased
among U.S. adults. These annual rates were higher among certain racial/ethnic
minority populations than among whites.1 In addition, racial/ethnic
minority populations reported higher use of emergency departments (EDs) and
doctors' offices for asthma treatment than whites.1 To assess asthma
prevalence and asthma-control characteristics among racial/ethnic populations,
CDC analyzed 2002 data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
(BRFSS). This report summarizes the results of that analysis, which indicated
that among the estimated 16 million (7.5%) U.S. adults with asthma, self-reported
current asthma prevalence among racial/ethnic minority populations ranged
from 3.1% to 14.5%, compared with 7.6% among whites. Comprehensive state-specific
asthma surveillance data are necessary to identify disparities in asthma prevalence
and asthma-control characteristics among racial/ethnic populations and to
develop targeted public health interventions.
BRFSS is a state-based, random-digit–dialed telephone survey of
the noninstitutionalized, civilian U.S. population aged ≥18 years. The
survey collects information about modifiable risk factors for chronic diseases
and other leading causes of death and is administered in English and Spanish.
In 2002, two questions about asthma were used in the core survey by the 54
reporting areas (i.e., the 50 states, the District of Columbia [DC], Guam,
Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands [USVI]). Lifetime asthma was defined
as a "yes" response to the question, "Have you ever been told by a doctor,
nurse, or other health professional that you have asthma?" Current asthma
was defined as a "yes" response to the same question and the question, "Do
you still have asthma?" Weighted prevalence estimates and 95% confidence intervals
(CIs) were calculated by using SUDAAN to account for the complex survey design.
In 2002, the median response rate for all 54 reporting areas was 58.3%
(range: 42.2% [New Jersey]–82.6% [Minnesota]).2 The overall
prevalence of lifetime asthma for the 54 reporting areas was 11.9% (N = 247,646)
(range: 8.6% [South Dakota]–19.6% [Puerto Rico]). Within the 50 states
and DC, lifetime asthma prevalence was 11.8% (range: 8.6% [South Dakota]–14.5%
[Montana]). The prevalence of current asthma in the 54 reporting areas was
7.6% (range: 4.7% [USVI]–11.5% [Puerto Rico]). Within the 50 states
and DC, current asthma prevalence was 7.5% (range: 5.8% [South Carolina]–10.0%
[Maine]) (Table 1).
Eight questions in the Adult Asthma History Module were used in 19 areas*
to examine the asthma-control characteristics among respondents with current
asthma in eight racial/ethnic populations: (1) non-Hispanic whites, (2) non-Hispanic
blacks, (3) non-Hispanic Asians, (4) non-Hispanic American Indians/Alaska
Natives (AI/ANs), (5) non-Hispanic Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders (NH/PIs),
(6) non-Hispanic persons reporting "other" race/ethnicity, (7) non-Hispanic
persons reporting multiple races/ethnicities, and (8) Hispanics. Respondents
with current asthma were asked to report the (1) number of ED visits during
the preceding 12 months, (2) number of doctors' office visits for urgent care
during the preceding 12 months, (3) number of routine check-ups for asthma
during the preceding 12 months, (4) presence of asthma attacks or episodes
during the preceding 12 months, (5) presence of asthma symptoms during the
preceding 30 days, (6) number of days with sleep disturbances during the preceding
30 days, (7) use of medication during the preceding 30 days, and (8) number
of days with activity limitation during the preceding 12 months. Respondents
who answered "yes" or provided a numeric response (other than zero) to any
question were coded as "yes" to the question, and all other responses were
coded as "no." Respondents who answered "don't know" or who refused to answer
the question were excluded.
The overall current asthma prevalence in the 19 areas using the adult
asthma module without race/ethnicity stratification was 7.3% (95% CI = 6.9%-7.6),
compared with 7.6% for all 54 reporting areas. Current asthma prevalence in
the 19 areas ranged from 4.7% (USVI) to 9.1% (DC). Current asthma was highest
among non-Hispanic respondents of multiple races (15.6%), followed by non-Hispanic
AI/ANs (11.6%), non-Hispanic blacks (9.3%), non-Hispanic whites (7.6%), non-Hispanic
persons of "other" race/ethnicity (7.2%), Hispanics (5.0%), non-Hispanic Asians
(2.9%), and non-Hispanic NH/PIs (1.3%) (Table 2). Hispanic respondents in
Puerto Rico reported higher current asthma (11.6%) than Hispanic respondents
in the 19 areas using the adult asthma module (5.0%) and Hispanic respondents
in the 50 states and DC (5.5%).
Among respondents with current asthma, ED visits were reported with
greater frequency by non-Hispanic black (37.2%) and Hispanic (26.0%) respondents
and least frequently by non-Hispanic multiracial respondents (13.5%). Non-Hispanic
white and non-Hispanic Asian respondents were the least likely to report doctors'
office visits for urgent care (25.8% and 17.1%, respectively). These two racial/ethnic
populations exhibited the most positive asthma-control profile, with moderate-to-low
percentages of respondents reporting each of the negative indicators (i.e.,
ED visits, urgent care visits, symptoms, attacks, sleep disturbance, and activity
limitation). Both racial/ethnic populations also reported a moderate-to-low
frequency of routine doctors' visits for asthma care and medication use. Non-Hispanic
black, AI/AN, multiracial, and Hispanic respondents all had less positive
asthma profiles, with high percentages reporting three to five of the six
L Rhodes, MPH, CM Bailey, MS, JE Moorman, MS, Div of Environmental Hazards
and Health Effects, National Center for Environmental Health, CDC.
Asthma is a chronic respiratory illness often associated with familial,
allergenic, socioeconomic, psychological, and environmental factors.3 Although recent reports suggest asthma-related mortality has been
declining since 1996, a disparity remains between rates for non-Hispanic whites
and those for non-Hispanic blacks and other racial/ethnic populations.4 Non-Hispanic blacks experience higher rates than non-Hispanic whites
for ED visits, hospitalizations, and deaths; these trends are not explained
entirely by higher asthma prevalence among non-Hispanic blacks.4 Other
racial/ethnic populations experience higher asthma mortality and hospitalization
rates than non-Hispanic whites while also reporting lower asthma prevalence
and fewer outpatient and ED visits. The asthma-control characteristics described
in this report can contribute to increased mortality and higher hospitalization
In 2002, the BRFSS adult lifetime asthma prevalence estimate and the
adult current asthma prevalence estimate for the 50 states and DC were higher
than in 2001 and 2000. Consistent with previous BRFSS findings, the data in
this report indicate variability across states and territories in the lifetime
and current asthma estimates. In addition, racial/ethnic populations with
the highest current asthma prevalence in 2001 (non-Hispanics of multiple races,
non-Hispanic AI/ANs, and non-Hispanic blacks) reported higher adult current
asthma prevalence in 2002. Non-Hispanic whites also reported higher adult
current asthma prevalence in 2002 than in 2001. Although non-Hispanic Asians
reported the lowest current asthma prevalence in 2001, current asthma prevalence
decreased in 2002 in contrast to the increases reported by other racial/ethnic
populations. Non-Hispanic NH/PIs also reported a decrease in current asthma
prevalence in 2002, compared with 2001. Higher current asthma prevalence cannot
be explained by the distribution of BRFSS respondents by race/ethnicity because
the change in any racial/ethnic population in the BRFSS data was <1% from
2001 to 2002. Possible reasons for variability include demographic, socioeconomic
(e.g., income and education level), and environmental factors (e.g., outdoor
air pollution and climate), physician diagnostic procedures, or data-collection
The findings in this report are subject to at least four limitations.
First, the median response rate for the survey was 58.3%. However, BRFSS asthma
prevalence is similar to estimates from other surveys with higher response
rates, such as the National Health Interview Survey.5 Second, BRFSS
does not measure asthma prevalence among institutionalized adults, military
personnel, persons aged <18 years, and residents without telephones. Third,
the validity of self-reported asthma or asthma-control characteristics in
BRFSS is unknown.6 Actual adherence to prescribed medication or
asthma treatment plans in respondents with current asthma is unknown. Finally,
the asthma-control questions were asked in 19 of the 54 BRFSS reporting areas
and might not accurately reflect the asthma-control characteristics of other
reporting areas or accurately represent their racial/ethnic distribution.
States and territories using the BRFSS Adult Asthma History module can
direct asthma management within their jurisdictions and address disparities
in asthma risk and control characteristics among racial/ethnic populations.
Use of comprehensive state-specific asthma surveillance data to identify populations
with poorly controlled asthma is instrumental in developing, implementing,
and evaluating asthma-control programs and interventions.
This report is based on data contributed by state BRFSS coordinators.
References: 6 available
*California, Delaware, District of Columbia, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana,
Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina,
Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and the U.S. Virgin
Register and get free email Table of Contents alerts, saved searches, PowerPoint downloads, CME quizzes, and more
Subscribe for full-text access to content from 1998 forward and a host of useful features
Activate your current subscription (AMA members and current subscribers)
Purchase Online Access to this article for 24 hours
Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.
Download citation file:
Customize your page view by dragging & repositioning the boxes below.
Users' Guides to the Medical Literature
Users' Guides to the Medical Literature
All results at
and access these and other features:
Enter your username and email address. We'll send you a link to reset your password.
Enter your username and email address. We'll send instructions on how to reset your password to the email address we have on record.
Athens and Shibboleth are access management services that provide single sign-on to protected resources. They replace the multiple user names and passwords necessary to access subscription-based content with a single user name and password that can be entered once per session. It operates independently of a user's location or IP address. If your institution uses Athens or Shibboleth authentication, please contact your site administrator to receive your user name and password.