From Atlanta to Seattle, asthma has a major impact on cities throughout the United States, according to the most recent rankings of the Asthma Capitals — the 100 most challenging places to live if you have asthma — released by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).
Topping the list for 2007 is Atlanta, due in part to its higher than average crude death rate (CDR) for asthma, high year-round pollen levels, bad air pollution and a lack of “100 percent smoke-free” bans for restaurants, bars or workplaces which many other cities across the United States have adopted. Also contributing to Atlanta’s ranking on the list this year is its high poverty and uninsured rates, both of which are barriers to good asthma care for many Atlanta area residents.
The top 10 cities on the list this year are:
- Raleigh, N.C.
- Knoxville, Tenn.
- Harrisburg, Pa.
- Grand Rapids, Mich.
- Milwaukee, Wis.
- Greensboro, N.C.
- Scranton, Pa.
- Little Rock, Ark.
The detailed ranking for all 100 cities is available at www.asthmacapitals.com as well as free asthma information and resources. The report analyzes statistics for the largest metropolitan areas in the United States based on 12 factors including prevalence, mortality, air quality, public smoking laws, medication usage and number of asthma specialists.
“The ranking gives us evidence of how problematic asthma is across the country,” said Derek Johnson, M.D., director of Pediatric Allergy at Temple University Medical Center. “We are also seeing an alarming number of uncontrolled asthma cases, which reinforces the need for better asthma education.”
Johnson added, “People can’t just move away from their asthma since every city in America has a variety of risk factors. Instead, people should work with an asthma specialist to make a good asthma management plan no matter where they live.”
While asthma affects more than 20 million American children and adults, many people aren’t aware of the severity and impact of the disease:
- 14 million missed days of school for children each year, making asthma the leading cause of school absenteeism
- 14.5 million missed days of work for adults each year
- 100 million days of restricted physical activity for children and adults each year
- 1.8 million emergency room visits annually
- $14 billion in annual medical expenses and indirect costs
- More than 4,000 asthma-related deaths annually
Airborne allergens and irritants such as pollen, pollution, tobacco smoke and others can trigger asthma attacks. This is why environmental control measures such as better air quality and public smoking bans can help to reduce asthma flare-ups.
The environment is not the only obstacle to long-term health for asthma patients. Also of concern is proper use of asthma treatments. Patients should properly use “controller” medications daily, and “rescue” medications (albuterol) rarely, only when needed for an emergency. Patients who use their rescue inhalers more than twice a week do not have their asthma under control. Over time, if left untreated or poorly controlled, asthma can cause irreversible damage to the lungs.
“We want to help people with mild to severe asthma learn more about their disease, proper management and environmental triggers that may be affecting their quality of life,” stated Mike Tringale, director of External Affairs for AAFA. “We want people with asthma to see that they don’t have to be limited by this disease. They can take action today to improve their health and their communities.”