Smoky Air from a Distance, or Nearby: Minorities Suffer More

By Dennis Archambault
The air quality in Southeast Michigan and other American communities in the Northeast last week exacerbated breathing problems for African Americans and other minorities – a condition far too common for those living in areas that have suffered from wildfires in recent years. The winds blew smoky air from the wildfires in the northeastern provinces of Canada, creating breathing problems, especially for Black children.
About four million children in the U.S. have asthma. The percentage of Black children with asthma is more than double that of white kids; more than 12 percent of Black kids nationwide suffer from the disease, compared with 5.5 percent of white children. They also die at a much higher rate.
Asthma is treatable. It can be managed with medicine, routine appointments, and inhalers. But Black children often struggle to get treatment and are more likely than white kids to require emergency hospitalization. This impacts school attendance and may limit physical activity.
Environmental health advocacy is one way of prevention upstream, and promoting greater access to primary care medical homes for Black children is closer to home. In any event, we’re reminded that air, water, and soil are determinants of health. For more information on asthma and African Americans, visit the U.S. Office of Minority Health website.
Dennis Archambault is vice president of Public Affairs for Authority Health.