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.