Study Finds Neighborhood Quality Impacts Risk of Pediatric Asthma

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Childhood asthma most often than not leads to children ending up in the hospital, missing school, and even dealing with symptoms that stick around after they grow up. Now, a new study has offered a glimmer of hope–the physical and social attributes of neighborhoods where the children grow up could have a say in making asthma less likely.

“Asthma is one of the most prevalent chronic conditions in U.S. children with adverse implications for long-term health and socioeconomic outcomes,” the study’s lead author Izzuddin Aris, assistant professor of Population Medicine at the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute and Harvard Medical School, said in a news release.

Experts are realizing that the places where children live can really shape their health as they grow up. If a neighborhood isn’t great, it might impact the children more than the grownups, and this could affect their health throughout their lives.

In the past, research on children’s health while growing up was not all encompassing, as researchers looked only at a few issues, such as socioeconomic condition, and didn’t include neighborhoods from different areas.

The recent study, however, evaluated a substantial cohort of more than 10,000 children hailing from diverse regions across the United States. The researchers’ aim was to examine the potential relationship between neighborhood characteristics and the occurrence of asthma.

By analyzing both favorable and less favorable aspects of neighborhoods, they discovered that children who were raised in neighborhoods offering higher opportunities and lower vulnerabilities during their early years had a reduced likelihood of developing asthma. This correlation remained significant, regardless of factors such as family income or parental history of asthma.

This suggests that both the overall health and environmental conditions of the neighborhood, as well as its social and economic fabric, collectively contribute to this perceived connection.

“Neighborhood indices, such as the ones used in this study, could be used to identify children at high risk of developing asthma,” said Aris. “We can’t overlook this critical opportunity to inform place-based initiatives or policies to reduce neighborhood barriers and improve access to health and environmental or social and economic resources and, in turn, provide families with optimal environments needed to support their children’s well-being.”

The findings of the study were published in JAMA Pediatrics.

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