Sad boy using an asthma inhaler

The 6 worst cities in America for Asthma

The 6 worst cities in America for Asthma

For most people the simple act of taking a breath is something they rarely think about.  But for someone with asthma, breathing can be a real struggle.  And since it is essential at every moment, it can be very scary when those breaths don’t come easily.

Fortunately, there are many ways to manage asthma and the effects it produces. From modern medicines and fast-acting inhalers to high efficiency air purifiers for homes and businesses, living with asthma is much easier than in past centuries. However, even with new treatments, asthma rates aren’t as low as they could be.

Asthma Risk Factors

There are many factors that contribute to asthma rates in the United States.  Some of these factors are geographical.  It turns out that your chance of having asthma as well as the severity of its effects are very different from city to city.

The different makeup of risk factors makes some cities harder to live in for people with asthma. These risk factors include poverty, lack of health insurance, poor air quality, pollen, asthma quick-relief medicine use, asthma long-term controller medicine use, smoking laws, and access to specialists.

The 2019 Asthma Capitals™

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, the nation’s leading organization for people with asthma and allergies, released a report on the cities with the highest risk factors for asthma.  The report, The 2019 Asthma Capitals™, takes a comprehensive look at several factors that contribute to a city’s ranking including the number of overall asthmatics, the number of emergency department visits and deaths related to the condition. The top 6 worst cities for asthma were ranked:

  1. Springfield, MA
  2. Dayton, OH
  3. Greensboro, NC
  4. Philadelphia, PA
  5. Cleveland, OH
  6. Allentown, PA

According to the report, Springfield, Massachusetts was rated as the most challenging city in the US to live with asthma.  Boston came in at number eight, putting two of the largest cities in Massachusetts in the top ten of the list.

A pretty brunette using an inhaler on a sunny day

A majority of the 20 worst cities for asthma are clustered in two “belts” in the northeast; the Ohio Valley Belt and the Northeast Mid-Atlantic Belt.

Northeast Mid-Atlantic Belt

The cities of Springfield, MA, Greensboro, NC, Philadelphia, PA, and Allentown, PA all reside within the Northeast Mid-Atlantic Belt. These cities have increased risk of getting and not properly treating asthma because of common risk factors. Having more urbanized populations, poverty, low air quality, and lack of access to specialists are prevalent and cause people with asthma to have less success properly treating their condition.

Ohio Valley Belt

The state with the most cities in the top 20 “most challenging” cities was Ohio.  The five Ohio cities in the top 20 include Dayton at #2, Cleveland at #5, Akron at #14, Columbus at #16 and Cincinnati at #18.  That means that five of the six largest cities in that state made the top 20 of the list.

One of the reasons that the cities in the Ohio Valley Belt made it so far up the list is that most of them have a higher than average poverty rate. There tends to be a high correlation between living in poverty and having breathing issues. While the national average poverty rate is 14%, the poverty rates in these cities are as follows:

Cleveland- 18.1%

Cincinnati- 16.2%

Columbus- 16%

Dayton- 15.9%

Akron- 12.9%

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