Report: More Federal Support Needed to Reduce Asthma Disparities Nationwide

August 10, 2017
Contact: Brooke Havlik, 212-961-1000 ext. 320,

New York, NY—The federal government’s Coordinated Federal Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Asthma Disparities needs more support to have an impact on asthma disparities in communities of color and low-income, according to a new report by WE ACT for Environmental Justice.  Compared to white children, asthma prevalence is higher in children who are Puerto Rican (2.4x), Black (1.6x), and Indigenous (1.3x), leading to missed school days and expensive medical bills.

Unequal Air and Care: Federal Impact on Pediatric Asthma Disparities in 4 U.S. Cities calls on the federal government to strengthen the 2010 Federal Action Plan and utilize the report’s recommendations to end asthma disparities, particularly among children 0-8. The recommendations derive from a community-driven, collaborative project among four environmental justice organizations—WE ACT For Environmental Justice with Jesus People Against Pollution (JPAP), Deep South Center for Environmental Justice (DSCEJ), and Green Door Initiative (GDI)—and seek to improve federal coordination on the social factors contributing to asthma disparities nationwide.

“It is well understood that one’s zipcode can have a greater impact on health outcomes than their genetic code. From New York City to the Mississippi Delta, poor children of color are faced with strikingly similar environments that make their asthma worse: access to quality care, healthy housing, transportation, federal funding for physicians; and other critical social resources. Our dialogue with grassroots communities and stakeholders helped us to better understand that federal resources are greatly needed to build the capacity of local health departments, and to develop community-wide collaborations that address the social determinants of health,” said Tenya Steele, Lead Author and Director of Environmental Health at WE ACT.

Among the report’s key findings:

  1. Federal approaches to asthma disparities are too broadly focused, and thereby are not written for the population they are intended to serve.
  2. Federal approaches to asthma disparities do not adequately take into consideration the social and political factors that children of color and low-income face, such as stress, poverty, poor housing, and access to quality health care.
  3. Coordination amongst federal agencies is inadequate in order to properly address inequalities.
  4. Federal agencies are not using a systemic approach, which could support increased engagement with—and establish sustainable funding for—community-based organizations in the delivery of non-clinical, community-based health care and education.

While the Federal Action Plan was created and implemented in 2010 under the Obama Administration, the authors recommend that the Trump Administration pick up where the last administration left off.  President Trump has been silent on asthma disparities thus far, but the report’s recommendations could aid the Administration in refocusing and refining efforts among federal agencies to reduce the asthma burden that many families and communities face.

The report’s key recommendations include:

  1. Federal agencies must do more to address social determinants of health that affect asthma disparities among children of color and low income.
  2. Federal agencies must leverage their power to influence access to asthma specialists at the community level through Federally Qualified Health Centers.
  3. Federal agencies must put forth a renewed and concerted effort to address asthma in schools and daycare settings.
  4. Federal agencies must view climate change through a public health lens when addressing environmental health and air pollution issues.
  5. Federal agencies must adopt a systems approach to tackling asthma disparities.

To view the full report, please visit:


WE ACT for Environmental Justice is a Northern Manhattan membership-based organization whose mission is to build healthy communities by ensuring that people of color and/or low income residents participate meaningfully in the creation of sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices. WE ACT has offices in Harlem, NYC and Washington, DC. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @weact4ej.


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