Asthma is a chronic lung condition that causes inflammation of the inner walls of the airways. This inflammation periodically causes the airways to narrow, producing wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath.
An estimated 20 million Americans suffer from asthma. That’s 1 in 15 Americans. Nearly 6 million of them are children. It is the fourth-leading cause of death in the St. Louis area. In St. Louis City, children’s asthma rates are twice the national average, and death rates in this population are three times the national average.
In 2009 the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America named St. Louis the Asthma Capital, the worst place in the USA to live with asthma. That ranking was based on factors including an above-average death rate from asthma, a lack of smoke-free laws, high pollen counts, percentage of people lacking insurance, and too few lung specialists.
Each year in Missouri, Asthma-related hospitalization charges alone total over $50 million dollars. In an analysis of the 2003 rates of emergency department visits for asthmatic children, MDHSS found rates for African Americans four times higher than whites, significantly higher rates for urban areas than rural areas, and rates for Medicaid insured’s three times as high as commercial insured’s.
Although this news can be discouraging, it is important to recognize that St. Louis has several programs that focus on educating and treating asthma sufferers. With proper management, most people with asthma can live healthy and active lives.