This measures the prevalence of asthma among children in grades K-8, as reported by schools to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
Asthma is a serious condition that inflames the lungs and airways, making it difficult for a child to breathe. It can be triggered by physical activity or environmental factors. Asthma causes physical and social challenges that result in a lowered potential for learning, fatigue, or an overall feeling of frustration. Children with asthma have lower attendance rates at school and visit the emergency room more frequently. Asthma is more common among certain populations, including low-income children and racial minorities, with lack of access to health care and substandard housing conditions thought to play a role.
In Essex County, 11% of children in grades K-8 had asthma in 2017, about the same as the state rate. Among local areas, the cities of Lawrence (17%) and Haverhill (16%), and Town of Saugus (13%) had the highest rates while the cities of Amesbury and Peabody, and towns of Essex, Hamilton, and Swampscott (all at 6%) had the lowest.
Since 2010, the rate of asthma among school children in Essex and the state was flat. Rates increased in the towns of Groveland and Rowley (up 6 percentage points to 11%).
Essex's rate was similar to that in Middlesex, which rose slightly from 10% in 2010 to 11% in 2017. Comparable data was not available for Lake, IL and Westchester, NY.
School nurses gather this information annually from students' school health record, physician reports, and parent information forms. A variety of factors can impact asthma rates, including socioeconomic factors. Therefore, when comparing rates across geographic areas, information such as access to medical care must also be considered. The figures are not age-adjusted, so some of the differences may be due to differences in the age distribution of students in each community.