Where you live can influence whether you have asthma, A&M study says

A wide variety of asthma education programs are available—ranging from hospital-based interventions to education programs in the home—but the availability of such programs varies around the state.

In an effort to close this gap, a research team from the Texas A&M School of Public Health investigated the prevalence of asthma in adults in Texas as well as distribution of asthma education programs around the state to determine whether there is a geographic disparity in education program availability.

The study was recently published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health.

The research team, led by Genny Carrillo, associate professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health and director of the Program on Asthma Research and Education at the School of Public Health, used publicly available data on asthma rates from 2015 that included nearly 15,000 Texas adults. They also searched for active asthma education programs in Texas, finding 27 currently in operation.

The team then analyzed data on asthma prevalence and education programs at the level of Texas’ 11 public health regions (PHRs).

The researchers found that adult asthma prevalence ranged from 5.1 percent to 11.5 percent, varying widely between different PHRs. They also found regional variations in program availability across the state. Some PHRs had several education programs whereas others had few, with three regions having no education programs. The distribution of programs seems skewed toward PHRs containing large cities: PHR 3 (Arlington) has eight programs, PHR 6 (Houston) has seven and PHR 11 has three (one in McAllen and two in Corpus Christi).

The research team also observed that the PHR with the highest asthma prevalence (PHR 2) had no education programs at all. Their analysis found a statistically insignificant association between asthma prevalence and the number of programs.

Research has shown that adults with asthma can reap huge benefits from education programs, however, the geographic disparity in programs can keep many from getting the help they need. People living in PHRs with few or no education programs frequently must travel long distances to attend either education sessions or routine medical visits, and transportation can be an additional barrier for people with lower socioeconomic status, which research has shown correlates to greater asthma prevalence. Having a better understanding of not only the geographic disparities present in asthma education programs but the barriers people living in underserved PHRs face can be useful for creating effective targeted interventions.

Carrillo’s co-authors on the study from the School of Public Health include Jessica John, graduate student in the Department of Health Promotion and Community Health Sciences; Juha Baek, graduate student in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health; Taehyun Roh, assistant professor, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics; and Lucia Conner, program manager, Program on Asthma Research and Education and Healthy South Texas Initiative, McAllen campus.

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