Hospitalizations for youth asthma in Jefferson County rose significantly during the past decade, while the state has maintained relatively consistent levels, according to the annual Kids Count County Data Book released from Kentucky Youth Advocates with data from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The data uses three year averages to determine changes over the past 10 years. When 2000-2002 data is compared with 2008-2010, Jefferson County has seen a 131 percent increase in asthma cases. But that data is being compared to a 3-year average with unusually low statistics, said Kentucky Youth Advocates Amy Swan. However, the number of hospitalizations continues to rise steadily.
The cause of the increase is difficult to determine, Beth VanCleave, Kosair Children’s Hospital’s asthma educator.
In 2008 and 2009 some health care officials tied the increase in those years partly to bird flu and flooding near the University of Louisville, she said. But even with these two catalysts, it’s likely a combination of different factors have contributed, VanCleave said.
“You have these little pockets of outbreaks that happen like this and they don’t really know why and it just is an explosion of asthma episodes,” she said.
VanCleave said more specific studies, like drawing data from urgent care centers that serve specific neighborhoods instead of only from hospitals, would be needed for Jefferson County to know why youth asthma hospitalizations rose.
“Unless you break this data down by zip code it would be very hard to prove it was the chemical factories in the west end, it would be very hard to prove it was the older schools where kids go in and there’s dust and mold,” VanCleave said.
No figures have been released for 2011, but VanCleave said she has seen a decline in asthma-related cases this year, despite Louisville breaking its record for air quality alert days.