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Hispanics in Massachusetts Burdened by Asthma


LAWRENCE — The American Lung Association released a new report, Luchando por el Aire: The Burden of Asthma on Hispanics, which provides an overview of the complex biological, environmental, political and cultural factors that increase asthma’s burden on the Hispanic population in Massachusetts and across the country.

This report is part of the Lung Association’s Disparities in Lung Health Series. The Spanish title of this new report is the best translation of “fighting for air,” an experience that is all too common among Hispanics with asthma.

There are 627,654 Hispanics in Massachusetts, many of whom may be needlessly suffering from asthma. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH), Hispanic adults in Massachusetts have higher lifetime asthma prevalence rates than White adults (18.1 percent vs. 11.7 percent).

However, the starkest disparities are found in asthma outcomes. Hispanics are 2 to 3 times more likely to visit the emergency department, be hospitalized, and die due to their asthma compared to Whites.

The American Lung Association in Massachusetts and fellow members of the statewide Massachusetts Asthma Action Partnership are working to reduce asthma-related disparities and improve outcomes and quality of life for those with asthma through a variety of initiatives:

• The Lung Association and MDPH have co-produced informational brochures to raise awareness about work-related asthma. Hispanics are more likely to work in low-paying construction and service jobs that often expose workers to serious respiratory hazards.

• MDPH, Boston Medical Center, and Baystate Medical Center are researching innovative community health worker interventions to improve asthma outcomes for Black and Hispanic children.

• The Boston Healthy Homes and Schools Collaborative advocates for healthy housing free of hazards such as secondhand smoke. BHHSC also works with schools and childcare centers to address building conditions and maintenance practices to reduce asthma triggers and improve disease management for students, teachers, and staff.

• The Pioneer Valley Asthma Coalition (PVAC) brings together public health, social justice, municipal, academic and health care groups, to address environmental and health disparities.

Addressing asthma disparities in the Springfield’s Latino communities and schools has been a priority since PVAC was founded a decade ago. PVAC is currently expanding its asthma-friendly reform initiative to other Latino communities in the greater Springfield area.

• Since 2006, the Greater Brockton Asthma Coalition has spearheaded a Healthy Homes Program that provides free home visits to households with children 18 and under as well as seniors 65 and over with asthma, to address safety and health hazards. The program teaches people how to reduce exposures to mold, pests, and chemicals that may trigger an asthma episode.

• And the Lung Association’s Lung HelpLine, 1-800-LUNG-USA (548-8252), offers free one-on-one support from Spanish-speaking registered nurses and respiratory therapists for anyone seeking guidance on asthma control.

“Last session, I secured an amendment in the state budget that directs MassHealth to establish a bundled payment for high-risk pediatric asthma patients,” said State Representative Jeffrey Sánchez, Chairman of the Joint Committee on Public Health.

“Providers will be able to use innovative treatments that currently aren’t reimbursable but are proven effective in both improving health and saving health care costs.”

When it comes to managing their asthma, Hispanics also face other burdens that are due to the environment, poverty and stress. For example, Hispanics are 165 percent more likely to live in counties with unhealthy levels of particulate matter pollution, and 51 percent more likely to live in counties with unhealthy levels of ozone compared to non-Hispanic whites.

“Despite the universal need for healthy air, there have been repeated attempts in Washington to weaken the Clean Air Act,” said Donna Hawk, Leadership Board Chair of the American Lung Association in Massachusetts. “This 40-year old federal law is the best and only way to protect those in Massachusetts from harmful air pollution blown in from states to our south and west.”

The Lung Association is fighting back against these attacks through our Massachusetts Healthy Air Campaign, which has united more than two dozen public health and health care groups to defend the Clean Air Act. For more information, please visit

The burden of asthma on Hispanics is complex and as this population grows, so does the urgency to address this health disparity. The American Lung Association calls on government agencies, the healthcare system, patient advocates, community leaders, and families to work together to narrow the gap so that Hispanics and everyone with asthma can breathe easier.

For more information about Luchando por el Aire: The Burden of Asthma on Hispanics, please contact Katie King at or 781-314-9011. To download a copy of the report, visit: www.

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