Island has city's lowest rate for severe childhood asthma


staten island Staten Island has the city's lowest rate of childhood asthma hospitalizations, and last year the rate dropped even lower, the city Health Department said yesterday.

Asthma is a chronic disease that results in inflamed lungs that can easily get irritated, causing episodes of airway tightening and symptoms such as wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath.

In 2005, 2.5 of every 1,000 Island children were hospitalized with asthma-related problems, down 4 percent from 2004. That is lower than the national rate and compares with 5.4 children out of every 1,000 kids citywide in 2005.

Over the past eight years, the city's rate has declined by 43 percent, but remains higher than the national rate of 3.1 children per 1,000.

Health officials attribute the steady decline in severe pediatric asthma cases to more awareness and advances in medicine and research.

"There's enhancement in diagnosis, there's enhancement in treatment and enhancement in patients' self-management," said Lorna Davis, director of the city Health Department's asthma initiative.

Also, more children have health insurance and the city has implemented better asthma control programs in schools, Ms. Davis said.

Staten Island's low rate of pediatric asthma hospitalizations doesn't come as a huge surprise, since asthma rates are typically higher in low-income areas, and the borough ranks among the city's wealthiest.

Within the borough, rates vary according to income. Children who live on the North Shore, where families have lower average incomes, are more likely to experience severe asthma attacks than are children on the South Shore.

While it is unclear why a higher percentage of children in lower-income areas have severe cases of asthma, health officials speculate that contributing factors might include differences in health care access and environmental conditions, such as higher levels of air pollution and cockroach infestation in homes.

source - Staten Island Advance