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1.  Conundrums in childhood asthma severity, control, and health care use: Puerto Rico versus Rhode Island 
Background
The lifetime prevalence of self-reported asthma among Puerto Ricans is very high, with increased asthma hospitalizations, emergency department visits, and mortality rates. Differences in asthma severity between the mainland and island, however, remain largely unknown.
Objective
We sought to characterize differences in asthma severity and control among 4 groups: (1) Island Puerto Ricans, (2) Rhode Island (RI) Puerto Ricans, (3) RI Dominicans, and (4) RI whites.
Methods
Eight hundred five children aged 7 to 15 years completed a diagnostic clinic session, including a formal interview, physical examination, spirometry, and allergy testing. Using a visual grid adapted from the Global Initiative for Asthma, asthma specialists practicing in each site determined an asthma severity rating. A corresponding level of asthma control was determined by using a computer algorithm.
Results
Island Puerto Ricans had significantly milder asthma severity compared with RI Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and whites (P < .001). Island Puerto Ricans were not significantly different from RI whites in asthma control. RI Puerto Ricans showed a trend toward less control compared with island Puerto Ricans (P = .061). RI Dominicans had the lowest rate of controlled asthma. Paradoxically, island Puerto Ricans had more emergency department visits in the past 12 months (P < .001) compared with the 3 RI groups.
Conclusions
Potential explanations for the paradoxic finding of milder asthma in island Puerto Ricans in the face of high health care use are discussed. Difficulties in determining guideline-based composite ratings for severity versus control are explored in the context of disparate groups.
doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2009.05.014
PMCID: PMC3380616  PMID: 19615729
Asthma; severity; control; clinical guidelines; Global Initiative for Asthma; Latino; Puerto Rican; Dominican; Rhode Island; health care use
2.  Beliefs and Barriers to Medication Use in Parents of Latino Children With Asthma 
Pediatric Pulmonology  2009;44(9):892-898.
Summary
Objective
Disparities in asthma outcomes exist between Latino and non-Latino white (NLW) children. We examined rates of medication use, medication beliefs, and perceived barriers to obtaining medication in US and island Puerto Rican parents of children with asthma
Hypotheses
Island PR parents would report the lowest rates of controller medication use, followed by RI Latino and RI NLW parents; Latino parents would report more medication concerns than NLW parents; and Island PR parents would report the most barriers to medication use.
Study Design
Five hundred thirty families of children with persistent asthma participated, including 231 Island PR, 111 RI NLW, and 188 RI Latino. Parents completed survey measures.
Results
Group differences were found on reported use of ICS (X2 = 50.96, P <0.001), any controller medication (X2 = 56.49, P <0.001), and oral steroids (X2 = 10.87, P <0.01). Island PR parents reported a greater frequency of barriers to medication use than the other two groups (X2 = 61.13, P <0.001). Latino parents in both sites expressed more medication concerns than NLW parents (F = 20.18, P <0.001). Medication necessity was associated with ICS use in all three groups (all P’s <0.01). Medication concerns were positively associated with ICS use in PR only (OR = 1.64, P <0.05).
Conclusions
Differences in medication beliefs and the ability to obtain medications may explain the reported disparity in controller medication use. Further studies are needed to evaluate these obstacles to medication use.
doi:10.1002/ppul.21074
PMCID: PMC3266229  PMID: 19672958
disparities; adherence; asthma; ethnicity; childhood; medication use
3.  Issues and Methods in Disparities Research 
Pediatric Pulmonology  2009;44(9):899-908.
Summary
Background
Epidemiologic studies have documented higher rates of asthma prevalence and morbidity in minority children compared to non-Latino white (NLW) children. Few studies focus on the mechanisms involved in explaining this disparity, and fewer still on the methodological challenges involved in rigorous disparities research.
Objectives and Methods
This article provides an overview of challenges and potential solutions to research design for studies of health disparities. The methodological issues described in this article were framed on an empirical model of asthma health disparities that views disparities as resulting from several factors related to the healthcare system and the individual/community system. The methods used in the Rhode Island–Puerto Rico Asthma Center are provided as examples, illustrating the challenges in executing disparities research.
Results
Several methods are described: distinguishing ethnic/racial differences from methodological artifacts, identifying and adapting culturally sensitive measures to explain disparities, and addressing the challenges involved in determining asthma and its severity in Latino and other minority children. The measures employed are framed within each of the components of the conceptual model presented.
Conclusions
Understanding ethnic and/or cultural disparities in asthma morbidity is a complicated process. Methodologic approaches to studying the problem must reflect this complexity, allowing us to move from documenting disparities to understanding them, and ultimately to reducing them.
doi:10.1002/ppul.21075
PMCID: PMC3266230  PMID: 19658111
asthma; health disparities; Latino; Puerto Rican; children; research methods
4.  Ethnic Differences in Perception of Lung Function 
Rationale: Disparities in pediatric asthma exist in that Latino children have higher prevalence and greater morbidity from asthma than non–Latino white children. The factors behind these disparities are poorly understood, but ethnic-related variations in children's ability to accurately recognize and report their pulmonary functioning may be a contributing process.
Objectives: To determine (1) if differences exist between Latino and non–Latino white children's perceptual accuracy and (2) whether these differences are related to asthma outcomes.
Methods: Five hundred and twelve children, aged 7–16 years (290 island Puerto Ricans, 115 Rhode Island Latinos, and 107 Rhode Island non-Latino white children) participated in a 5-week home-based protocol in which twice daily they entered subjective estimates of their peak expiratory flow rate into a hand-held, programmable spirometer and then performed spirometry. Their accuracy was summarized as three perceptual accuracy scores. Demographic data, asthma severity, intelligence, emotional expression, and general symptom-reporting tendencies were assessed and covaried in analyses of the relationship of perceptual accuracy to asthma morbidity and health care use.
Measurements and Main Results: Younger age, female sex, lower intelligence, and poverty were associated with lower pulmonary function perception scores. Island Puerto Rican children had the lowest accuracy and highest magnification scores, followed by Rhode Island Latinos; both differed significantly from non–Latino white children. Perceptual accuracy scores were associated with most indices of asthma morbidity.
Conclusions: Controlling for other predictive variables, ethnicity was related to pulmonary function perception ability, as Latino children were less accurate than non–Latino white children. This difference in perceptual ability may contribute to recognized asthma disparities.
doi:10.1164/rccm.200906-0836OC
PMCID: PMC2902755  PMID: 20299534
childhood asthma; symptom recognition; disparities
5.  Latino Caregivers' Beliefs about Asthma: Causes, Symptoms, and Practices 
Background and Objective:
This study examined belief systems of Latino caregivers who have children with asthma from Puerto Rican and Dominican backgrounds who resided on the Island of PR and the Mainland. The goal of this study was to document similarities and differences in beliefs about the causes, symptoms and treatments of asthma across two sites and two Latino ethnic sub-groups of children who remain the most at risk for asthma morbidity.
Methods:
Participants included 100 primary caregivers of a child with asthma. Fifty caregivers from Island PR and fifty caregivers from mainland RI were interviewed (at each site, 25 caregivers were from Puerto Rican backgrounds and 25 caregivers were from Dominican backgrounds). The interview included an assessment of demographic information and beliefs about the causes and symptoms of asthma, and asthma practices.
Results:
Results indicated more similarities in beliefs about the causes and symptoms of asthma across site and ethnic group. The majority of differences were among beliefs about asthma practices by site and ethnic group. For example, a higher proportion of caregivers from Island PR, particularly those of Dominican descent, endorsed that a range of home and botanical remedies are effective for treating asthma.
Conclusions:
Results from this study point to several interesting directions for future research including larger samples of Latino caregivers with children who have asthma. A discussion of the importance of understanding cultural beliefs about asthma and asthma practices is also reviewed.
doi:10.1080/02770900801890422
PMCID: PMC2590764  PMID: 18415827
Asthma; Latino Caregiver's Beliefs

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