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Indian-origin researcher links asthma to neighbourhood environs

Washington, June 6 (ANI): An Indian-origin researcher has found that areas surrounded by restaurants, entertainment, cultural facilities and ethnic diversity are more likely to have lower asthma rates than those where people are less likely to move, as well as those where there are more churches and not-for-profit facilities.

Dr. Ruchi Gupta, who led a two-year study with her colleagues at Children’s Memorial Hospital and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, has found that neighbourhoods with more community vitality, specifically economic potential, community amenities and social capital had lower asthma rates.

Her study focused on 287 Chicago neighbourhoods, where nearly 50,000 children grades K-8 were screened for asthma.

“Previous studies showed that neighbourhoods right next to each other with similar racial makeup had very different asthma rates; we wanted to see what else was going on in each neighbourhood to cause such a disparity. So we looked at specific factors in each neighbourhood,” Ruchi said.

The researchers observed that ethnically diverse communities with greater potential for economic development that were civically engaged, meaning that there were high percentages of registered voters had low asthma rates while stable communities, defined as communities where residents were less likely to move, with more social interaction had higher asthma rates.

Even though the team have yet to determine how these factors affect health outcomes, previous research has shown that asthma and other chronic illnesses of childhood are associated with poverty, which may explain why communities with low asthma rates had a greater capacity for economic growth.

The researchers believe that homes in which residents are less likely to move receive less frequent and thorough cleanings, leading to an accumulation of indoor pollutants known to trigger asthma.

Besides community influence, other factors that affect the rate of childhood asthma include income and education, housing problems with sensitivities to cockroaches, dust mites, mice and rats, exposure to air pollution and individual factors. A collaboration of many factors may ultimately cause asthma.

“With these insights, we are better equipped to develop more effective interventions to help reduce asthma in children living in urban environments,” Ruchi said.

She is further investigating the true importance of these protective factors by talking to and surveying residents in a Chicago neighbourhood with a high childhood asthma rate.

The study has been published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. (ANI)

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