Saturday, May 14, 2011

Asthma Becoming More Common

According to a new report from the CDC, asthma became much more common in the US between 2001 and 2009 -
During 2001--2009, the proportion of persons of all ages with asthma in the United States increased significantly (12.3%), from 7.3% (20.3 million persons) to 8.2% (24.6 million persons). A rising trend in asthma prevalence was observed across all demographic groups studied (Figure 1). Prevalence increased significantly during 2001--2009 for children (8.7% to 9.6%), adults (6.9% to 7.7%), males (6.3% to 7.1%), females (8.3% to 9.2%), whites (7.2% to 7.8%), blacks (8.4% to 10.8%), and Hispanics (5.8% to 6.4%). 
In 2009, asthma prevalence was greater among children than adults (9.6% versus 7.7%), and was especially high among boys (11.3%) and non-Hispanic black children (17.0%). Prevalence among adults was greatest for women (9.7%) and adults who were poor (10.6%) (Table 1).
Of course, the reason the for the increase is unclear (I broke the text below into paragraphs to make it more readable) -
The prevalence and number of persons with asthma have increased since 2001, and demographic differences among population subgroups persist despite improvements in outdoor air quality and decreases in cigarette smoking and secondhand smoke exposure (11--13). Although probable causes for the increase in asthma are unclear, CDC's top priority is getting people to manage their asthma better.
Asthma has been more prevalent among children than adults, women than men, and blacks than whites since 2001. Similar to findings in previous studies (3--6), in 2009, asthma was more prevalent among children, women, non-Hispanic blacks, the poor, and in the Northeast and Midwest. 
The cause of this variation remains unclear and might be the result of characteristics associated with asthma development and disease duration that were not examined in this study, including genetic predisposition, history of atopy (a genetic tendency to develop an allergic reaction), health risk factors (e.g., smoking, obesity), earlier diagnosis, socioeconomic status (e.g., education or occupation), and exposure to environmental allergens or irritants (e.g., mold, tobacco smoke, secondhand smoke exposure, pet dander, outdoor air pollution, and any upper respiratory infection, such as influenza or common cold) (1--3,5,6). In particular, obesity and exposure to tobacco smoke each have been associated with increased asthma severity (14,15).
More detailed analytic investigation of these risk factors might help characterize subpopulations and identify those in greatest need of targeted prevention efforts.
I think I might actually fall over if an organization like the CDC ever identified a definitive "cause" of something like asthma.  It is slightly bothersome when you have an (estimated) 4 million more people effected by a condition like asthma over an eight year period and the best the CDC can come up with is a "our top priority is getting people to manage their asthma better".  Don't get me wrong, it is critically important to teach people how to manage their asthma - their lives just might depend on it - but don't you think the top priority should be figuring out why more people are developing asthma?

OK, that really isn't really a fair criticism because conditions like asthma are complex and may have many different possible causes.  But when you have a group of condition that keep getting more common - such as asthma, childhood obesity, diabetes, ADD/ADHD, and autism - and your explanation and response to each is the almost the same, then maybe it is time to try a new approach.


  1. increase in auto-immune conditions.

    But no possible connection to the suppression of normal childhood illnesses, no connection to the suppression of fever in childhood with drugs and no possible connection to environmental toxins messing with the developing immune system.

    They need an award for best skill at avoiding seeing obvious connections.

  2. Let me add to Minority's comment:
    no possible connection to the US dietary guidelines, no connection to the additives in our diet (after all, removing coal tar products from our child's diet is considered unecessarily restrictive, as if coal tar were a necessary food group), no connection to the antibiotics wiping out our protective gut flora...geeee....there's nothing left but another epidemic of bad genes!

  3. Along those same lines, I just saw a commercial last night on TV claiming that "corn sugar" (aka high-fructose corn syrup) is processed by your body the same way that cane sugar is. According to this commercial, "corn sugar" is no worse for you than normal sugar.

    If the commercial hadn't been paid for by the Corn Refiners Association I might have almost believed them...

  4. We are not human beings, we are "consumers" and in that role we need to ingest as many manufactured food products and drugs as possible. Asthma definitely increases the need for drugs, so I guess it contributes to the GNP!