United States, El Puente: Asthma survey, 1998

Many people in the “Southside” community of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, had been complaining that they got asthma, or their asthma has gotten worse, since they moved to that community. El Puente decided to begin gathering evidence about asthma from the community’s own perspective. In March and April 1998, with CIET technical support, 7 adults from El Puente’s Parents Group who were in training to become Community Health Workers, 12 CHE Activists and several El Puente staff members surveyed 2,311 people in 727 households in 8 neighborhood clusters on the subject of asthma.

El Puente youth gathering data.

Self-reported asthma among this sample was 12.4%, more than twice the national rate of 5.4%.

Nearly 1 of every 5 women of ages 45-64 had been told by a doctor she has asthma. Four out of 10 asthma sufferers went to the hospital emergency room because of asthma in the previous 12 months, 27% more than once. One in 5 adults with asthma said something at their job was causing them breathing problems. Those who had moved to their present or previous addresses from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico or another Latin American country, however recently or long ago, were only half as likely to have asthma as those who had moved there from within the continental United States. Individuals older than 14 who had lived in Brooklyn for 15 years or more were twice as likely to have asthma as those who had lived in the borough for a shorter time. The last 2 findings could be related to housing conditions, diet, stress, behavioral changes associated with change of residence, air pollution, other factors or a combination of them. El Puente is not jumping to conclusions about what is causing asthma in the community, but the findings bear out what people had been saying: that living in the neighborhood has something to do with asthma.