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New Report Ranks Allentown as the Most Challenging ‘Asthma Capital’ in the Country | WDIY Local News

Jake Parkinson

Pennsylvania’s third most populated city is the most challenging place in the country for people with asthma to live, according to a new report.

The report was released by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and ranked 100 cities across the United States by how challenging they are to live in for people with asthma, using three major health outcomes.

Allentown was named as the number one “Asthma Capital” in both the Northeast region and the overall country.

The foundation said Allentown had worse than average rates of estimated asthma prevalence (ranked 10th nationally) and emergency room visits for the condition (ranked 1st overall).

The city also had an average crude rate of deaths due to asthma, but was not among the top 10 cities nationwide in terms of related mortalities.

Four other Pennsylvania cities were included in the top 100 municipalities analyzed – Philadelphia placed 8th, Harrisburg came in 16th, Pittsburgh was listed 43rd, and Scranton was 74th.

The foundation said a number of risk factors can worsen asthma or influence rates of the condition such as poverty, exposure to air pollution, pollen allergies, use of asthma quick-relief medicine or asthma control medicine, a lack of health insurance or access to specialists, poor indoor air quality, and smoking.

The report also noted that social, economic, and environmental factors can disproportionately impact asthma outcomes, adding that most of the top Asthma Capitals face major challenges and inequities that lead to health disparities.

Regarding the prevalence of asthma, the AAFA said:

  • Puerto Ricans have the highest rate of asthma prevalence compared to any other racial or ethnic group in the United States.
  • Black Americans are disproportionally diagnosed with asthma compared to white Americans.
  • Asthma is more common in female adults (10.8%) than male adults (6.5%).
  • Asthma is a leading chronic disease in children, behind only dental cavities.
  • People living below 100% of the poverty level are more likely to have asthma than those living at any percentage above the level.

In total, the report said over 27 million people in the U.S. were living with asthma in 2022, up from 20.3 million in 2001.

Over 3,500 people died from asthma across the country in 2021, and the foundation said deaths related to the condition rose in 2020 for the first time in 20 years.

September is also Asthma Peak Month, as people are exposed to several triggers at once, and asthma-related attacks and hospital stays increase.

The AAFA said the third week of September, called Asthma Peak Week, is the worst time, citing a “perfect storm” of ragweed pollen peaking, the start of cold and flu season, and children going back to school.

The organization also provided several questions to determine whether a person’s asthma is well-controlled:

  • Do you have asthma symptoms more than two times a week?
  • Do you need your quick-relief medicine to treat symptoms more than two times a week?
  • Do you wake up from asthma more than two times a month?
  • Do you use oral corticosteroids (like prednisone) more than two times a year?

The AAFA said answering “yes” to any of these questions is a sign that a person’s asthma is not any control, and that treatment options should be pursued.

The full report is accessible here.

(Original air-date: 9/8/23)

Sarit "Siri" Laschinsky was WDIY's News and Public Affairs Director until 2023.
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