The Invisible Epidemic Essay

1213 words - 5 pages

The Invisible Epidemic

The rise of asthma in urban communities is beginning to reach epic proportions. It is a disease that is not limited to the United States, but is endemic to all developed nations and is especially prevalent in urban communities. The drastic rise in asthma and related pulmonary illnesses is surprising because benchmark studies have resulted in an as yet unknown understanding of the disease. All scientists agree, however, that this is a pathology whose etiology can be traced as an overt effect of a modern Western culture.
The effects of asthma are wide reaching and can be studied from many viewpoints. From a societal perspective, sociologists and public health officials cringe when they read the statistics for asthma in children in a poor urban area of New York, versus the national average. The Mott Haven neighborhood of The Bronx, which has a median household income less than one-third of the U.S. median, has an asthma-related hospitalization rate eight times higher than the national average. From an environmental perspective, environmental scientists are discovering that vehicle exhaust can acerbate asthma's symptoms. In Mott Haven a local newspaper counted 550 passing trucks passing one street corner near a school in one hour. In Tehran, Iran, the worlds eighth largest city, levels of industrial pollutants from fossil fuel combustion have risen to four times higher than the standards adopted by the World Health Agency, in only ten years, and asthma related hospitalizations have also risen dramatically. From a cultural perspective the research is also frightening. Research from the Albert Einstein College of medicine indicates that asthma rates may be rising as a direct result of our western lifestyle. Findings show that the national rates of asthma hospitalizations may be increasing at a high rate because children are spending more time indoors than ever before, and are being exposed to dust-mites and allergens that are prevalent inside houses and apartments. That lack of physical conditioning along with a 1997 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine which found that 40% of asthmatic children are very allergic to cockroach feces is another clue why asthma incidents are so widespread in inner-cities. The only aspect of our environment, technology and society that seems to be unaffected by this disease and turns a blind-eye to asthma is our political leaders. Even though the Clinton administration has made asthma research funding a top priority, most scientists agree that there should be more money ear-marked towards comprehensive long-term studies such as those that discovered the risk factors behind heart disease and lung-cancer. Our leaders and future leaders need to take heed, though. Between 1980 and 1994 the prevalence of asthma among U.S. children five to 14 has almost doubled. Even more frightening is that in the past twenty years, when medical technology has grown at an...

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