Latest Study Shows Persisting Racial Disparities among Chicago Children with Asthma

May 1, 2018

Erica Krutsch
Director, Marketing and Communications
Respiratory Health Association
Desk: (312) 628-0225
Cell: (734) 262-4527

Latest Study Shows Persisting Racial Disparities among Chicago Children with Asthma

Emergency Department visit rates for African Americans 75% greater than citywide average

CHICAGO – For over a decade, researchers, clinicians and community-based organizations have recognized and worked to address racial disparities in asthma. Chicago has also been identified as an epicenter for asthma, with higher prevalence in minority communities on the city’s west and south sides.

On World Asthma Day, Respiratory Health Association released a new report showing little progress in addressing racial disparities among Chicago children with asthma. The report focuses on rates of asthma-related emergency department (ED) visits from 2009-2015.

Key Findings Include:

  • African American children accounted for over 63 percent of all asthma-related emergency department visits recorded in 2015.
  • The rate of visits by African Americans remained 75 percent greater than the citywide rate.
  • Asthma-related pediatric ED visits translated to an estimated $18.7 million in health care charges. According to Medical Expenditure Panel data, the average charge for an asthma-related ED visit in Chicago was $2,116. Application of that figure to the 8,848 asthma-related pediatric ED visits in Chicago in 2015 suggests health care charges of more than $18.7 million.
  • Racial disparities led to $6.1 million in preventable health care charges. Had the 2015 rates of ED visits among African American and Latino children been equal to the rate of visits by White children, asthma-related ED charges could have been reduced by nearly $6.1 million.

Download the full report.

“It is clear we need to do more to understand and address the disparities in asthma,” said Joel Africk, President and Chief Executive Officer, Respiratory Health Association. “Poorly managed asthma leads to missed school days, reduced health outcomes and overall lost opportunities. No child should fall behind because of a manageable condition like asthma.”

Asthma is a leading cause of school absenteeism, causing an estimated 300,000 missed schools days per year in Illinois, which in turn lead to days of work missed by adult caregivers.

In addition to lost educational opportunity and productivity, asthma represents a large financial burden for Chicago. When treated properly, asthma can most often be managed in a primary care, outpatient setting. Since a primary care visit is estimated to cost five times less than an ED visit, improvements in education, care and treatment can significantly reduce the economic burden of asthma.

Respiratory Health Association is calling for more research into trends in asthma; better data tracking of asthma prevalence and demographics; broadened support of community-based asthma programming to promote asthma management; and additional collaboration between research, practice and policy partners as initial steps to close the gap in racial disparities among children with asthma.

“Reducing racial disparities in asthma is one of the top priorities identified in the city’s Healthy Chicago 2.0 agenda. The City of Chicago has made tremendous progress in advancing policy changes that impact asthma outcomes like dramatically reducing youth smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke and protecting the environment through innovative sustainability initiatives,” said Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner, Julie Morita, MD.


Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader in Illinois since 1906. A policy leader, our organization remains committed to advancing innovative and meaningful policies and programs to improve the lives of those living with asthma.  We have been one of the state’s leading advocates for asthma prevention and management policies and provide asthma management programs for underserved communities. For more information, visit