Assessing Disparities in Asthma Among Children Across Neighborhoods of a Large Metropolitan Area

Shelby Gilbert

Abstract


While poor and vulnerable populations often contribute significantly less to environmental problems, they are significantly more likely to suffer from adverse economic and health effects caused by environmental problems. Poor children, who are often children of color, are particularly vulnerable to environmental health disparities.  From an ecological perspective, children’s development is not only influenced by their immediate environment, but also by their larger neighborhood and school environments. The purpose of this paper is to describe the application of the Childhood Opportunity Index as a tool to assess asthma disparities among children in a SW Florida metropolitan area and discuss its implications for strengthening public health policy. In this paper, I use the Child Opportunity Index (COI), generated by the diversitydatakids.org project and data on 2017 children’s asthma-related emergency room visits from the Florida Department of Health’s Environmental Public Health Tracking System to assess disparities across neighborhoods in the Cape Coral-Fort Myers metropolitan area. Results based on application of this measure, in conjunction with data generated by a state-level public health tracking system, revealed that children who live within high child opportunity tracts generally experienced fewer asthma-related emergency room visits than did children who live within low child opportunity tracts. As the racial and ethnic composition of large metropolitan areas in the United States continues to increase, more research should focus on these dynamics and their influence on healthy development of children and others. The Child Opportunity Index is a useful tool in identifying communities that face educational, environmental and economic disadvantages. Further application and analysis based on this index may help to inform policies and promote more equitable health outcomes.


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References


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