Lower respiratory illnesses (LRIs) and asthma are common diseases in children under five years of age. Few studies have investigated the relationships between multiple, home-based social and environmental risk factors and asthma and LRIs in children. Of those that have, none have focused exclusively on children under five years of age, who are more physiologically vulnerable and spend more time at home compared to older children. Further, no studies have done so at the community level.
Researchers from the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health modeled relationships between emergency department visits and hospitalization rates for asthma and LRIs for children under five years and geographic risk factors, including socio-economic and housing characteristics, ambient air pollution levels, and population density in Maricopa and Pima Counties, Arizona, from 2005 to 2009. The study is published in the journal BMC Public Health.
Following the regression analyses, almost all predictors were significantly related to at least one disease outcome. Lower socio-economic status (SES) and reduced population density were associated with asthma hospitalization rates and both LRI outcomes. After adjusting for differences between counties, Pima County residence was associated with lower asthma and LRI hospitalization rates. No spatial autocorrelation was found among multiple regression model residuals.
“Our findings indicate that many rural areas with lower socio-economic status have distinct factors for childhood respiratory diseases that require further investigation,” said Mr. Nathan Lothrop, project manager and doctoral student at the UA Zuckerman College of Public Health and lead author.
He added that county-wide differences in maternal characteristics or agricultural land uses (not tested here) may also play a role in Pima County residence protecting against hospitalizations, when compared to Maricopa County.
The researchers conclude that better understanding this and other relationships and more focused public health interventions at the community level could be developed to reduce and better control these diseases in children under five years, who are more physiologically vulnerable.
Community-level characteristics and environmental factors of child respiratory illnesses in Southern Arizona
BMC Public Health. May 25, 2017
Nathan Lothrop, Khaleel Hussaini, Dean Billheimer and Paloma BeamerArizona