Hooray! Asthma rates in children have declined after a long increase over the past few decades. A research article published yesterday reveals that asthma rates are down, not by much, but still - that's good news.
According to the research, though there are many competing forces which affect asthma (cause it or trigger it), it appears that many of the factors were won over by actions decreasing exposure to dangers.
Smoking rates have dropped drastically and the air quality in the U.S. has also improved. As awareness is rising, more and more risk factors are being taken care of. For example, more and more people are aware of indoor air quality and its importance in a family's health.
Using 2001-2013 National Health Interview Survey data for children ages 0 to 17 years, the researchers discovered some trends among children. Asthma rates doubled from 1980 to 1995, and kept increasing in the period from 2001 to 2010 (though at a slower rate). The reasons for the increase in asthma in children are not so clear, but among the mentioned risk factors are: second hand smoke, obesity, children's immune systems and the rise in air pollution. Of course, other factors may have contributed to this trend, but they remain unknown.
From 2010 to 2013, the rates remained constant overall, and 2013 showed an overall decrease (down to 8.3% from its high point of 9.7% in 2011). The researchers discovered that there are some racial disparities in these trends. For example, black children's asthma prevalence is more than 14 percent, while white children show a prevalence of only about 8 percent. There is also an increase in prevalence in 10-17 year-olds, poor children and those living in the south. In addition, there are some economic differences in the group - poor children show higher rates of asthma than nonpoor children.
Except for a few groups, most groups showed a decrease in prevalence, or at least plateauing rates. Same as the increase in former years, the reason for this change is unknown. Whatever the reason, researchers and other experts are touting these findings as great news, even without knowing the cause.
Though optimism is shown, the numbers are still pretty frightening - "Roughly, 1 in 9 children have asthma in a population that should be healthy overall" says Elizabeth Matsui, a professor of pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore. "So there's still a lot of work to be done."
With the racial disparities and economic inequalities shown in this research, there is still much work to be done. However, for the time being, we can be happy with what the researchers discovered in this analysis. It shows that something works. Even if we don't yet know exactly what.