On Tuesday the American Lung Association released an exciting new report entitled Luchando por el Aire: The Burden of Asthma on Hispanics; it is part of its Disparities in Lung Health Series of reports. The Spanish title translates as “fighting for air,” an experience that is all too common among people with asthma.
Here in California we have nearly thirteen million Hispanics, many of whom may be needlessly suffering from asthma, a severe chronic, or life long, disease that can be serious – even life threatening. The report finds that compared to non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics with asthma are less likely to be in the care of a regular doctor or clinic; less likely to be prescribed appropriate medicines; less likely to have access to specialized care; and more likely to end up being treated in the emergency department or hospitalized in a crisis.
While secondhand smoke and tobacco use weren’t a large part of the report, the report does point out that secondhand smoke in multi-unit housing can affect children with asthma. In addition, the report finds that “Hispanics are also less protected from secondhand smoke in the workplace than any group except for American Indian/Alaska Natives. They report that only 69.1 percent of their workplaces are smokefree, compared to the 76.3 percent reported by non-Hispanic whites.”
Given these findings, if I were writing the report, I would add two things to the recommendations of the report:
- Pass smokefree housing policies to protect Hispanic renters with asthma. Back in 2006 the Center did a poll which found that 63 percent of Latino adult renters in California have been exposed to secondhand smoke drifting into their apartment, compared to 46 percent of all renters in California. Because of this, 82% would support a law requiring apartment buildings to offer non-smoking sections of units.
- Pass comprehensive smokefree workplace laws to protect Hispanic workers with asthma. Here in California that would mean we need to eliminate the exemptions in the California’s smokefree workplace law. While the current law has protected a vast majority of workers in California from the harmful impacts of secondhand smoke, there are still exemptions for several locations, including warehouses, hotel lobbies and break rooms. And as the report found, Hispanics are being disproportionately affected in their workplace.
The report also reminds us that we come across people everyday in our policy work who need resources especially when it comes to compromised lung health. They can turn to The Lung HelpLine
(1-800-LUNG-USA), which offers one-on-one support from Spanish-speaking registered nurses and respiratory therapists for individuals to seek guidance on asthma control.
Overall, this new report is a great resource, you should check it out!