American Review of Respiratory Disease

This study analyzes data from the Second National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey to determine whether black children are more likely to have asthma or wheeze, even after adjusting for environmental and socioeconomic exposures. For children 6 months to 11 yr of age, the unadjusted prevalence for asthma was 3.0% among white children and 7.2% among blacks; prevalence of frequent wheeze was 6.2% among whites and 9.3% among blacks. In a logistic regression model including race, age, and sex, the relative odds (RO) of asthma for black children as compared to white children were 2.5 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.9 to 3.4). Other predictors of asthma in a stepwise logistic regression included age, sex (boys versus girls, RO = 1.4), younger maternal age (2 standard deviation [SD] drop in age, RO = 1.4), residence in the central city (RO = 1.6), and family income (RO for the lowest versus highest tertile, RO = 1.7). After adjusting for these risk factors, age and sex, black children still had a 1.7 RO (95% CI, 1.2 to 2.1) of having asthma. Frequent wheeze was associated with race (black versus white, RO = 1.6), sex (boys versus girls, RO = 1.3), birth weight (2 SD deficit in birth weight, RO = 1.4), and triceps skinfold thickness (increase in odds of asthma for 2 SD increase in skinfold, RO = 1.6). The significant effect of maternal age and birth weight after adjusting for other confounding variables suggests that the in utero environment may be an important determinant of asthma. The increased risk for asthma and frequent wheeze among blacks may be due in part to environmental exposures, many of which are associated with poverty, but after adjusting for these environmental factors, blacks were still at a significantly higher risk.

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