In the United States, asthma prevalence increased overall by 75 percent between 1980 and 1994 and 74 percent among children ages 5 to 14, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which estimates that more than 7 percent of U.S. children live with the disease.
In 2002 alone, asthma accounted for 12.7 million doctor visits, 1.9 million emergency department visits, almost 500,000 hospitalizations, more than 4,000 deaths and millions of dollars in health care spending. While U.S. asthma mortality rates have grown overall in the past two decades, the rate has risen disproportionately among children and black Americans, who experience asthma-related hospitalizations at triple the rate of whites. Often, such diseases are solely discussed as health problems, but more and more, people are becoming aware of the intrinsic connection to the way community design and transportation plans are realized.
“It really is about density, diversity and design,” said Greg Dierkers, MEM, senior policy analyst at the Center for Clean Air Policy in Washington, D.C. Such designs, often called “smart growth,” can lead to substantial improvements in air quality, especially in traffic-related emissions, he said. And change is needed: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25 percent of America’s children live in areas that regularly exceed acceptable limits for ozone, more than a quarter of which is traced back to car emissions.
To read more, visit the American Public Health Association.