Hop­kins to study link between obe­sity and asthma in kids

Baltimore Sun - - AROUND THE REGION - By An­drea K. McDaniels am­c­daniels@balt­sun.com Twit­ter.com/ankwalker

Johns Hop­kins Medicine re­searchers will use a $6 mil­lion fed­eral grant to study whether obe­sity con­trib­utes to asthma prob­lems in chil­dren.

The grant was an­nounced Tues­day at Bal­ti­more City Hall by of­fi­cials with the U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency and the Na­tional In­sti­tute of En­vi­ron­men­tal Health Sciences.

The John Hop­kins Cen­ter for the Study of Child­hood Asthma in the Ur­ban En­vi­ron­ment will lead the study, which will fo­cus on Bal­ti­more, where one in five chil­dren suf­fers from asthma. The re­search will look at whether chang­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors in the lives of 200 chil­dren — half of whom are obese — will help their asthma symp­toms.

Asthma is a long­time public health prob­lem that sci­en­tists have toiled for years to rem­edy. It is one of the big­gest rea­sons kids miss days from school, and if un­treated, it can im­pede their stamina and abil­ity to par­tic­i­pate in phys­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties.

“This is the kind of re­search that is the next step push in try­ing to help our chil­dren who suf­fer from asthma,” said EPA Re­gional Ad­min­is­tra­tor Shawn M. Garvin, who noted that 40 per­cent of chil­dren’s dis­eases are as­so­ci­ated with or con­trib­uted to by en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors, such as air qual­ity, dust in homes or mice fe­ces.

The rate of pe­di­atric asthma in Bal­ti­more is more than twice the na­tional av­er­age and the city’s hos­pi­tal­iza­tion rate for chil­dren with asthma is the high­est in Mary­land, ac­cord­ing to the city health depart­ment. Na­tion­wide, 6 mil­lion chil­dren, or 8.6 per­cent, suf­fer from asthma, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol.

The re­searchers will put air pu­ri­fiers in the chil­dren’s homes as part of the study. Air qual­ity in peo­ple’s homes is of­ten worse than out­side be­cause of fac­tors such as dust and cig­a­rette smoke, said lead re­searcher Dr. Na­dia Hansel, as­so­ciate dean for re­search and as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of medicine at the Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­sity School of Medicine.

The study will in­volve an­a­lyz­ing if chil­dren who are obese ben­e­fit more from the en­vi­ron­men­tal changes. The sci­en­tists also will con­duct sleep ap­nea tests.

“What our group is re­ally com­mit­ted to is go­ing in homes through part­ner­ships with fam­i­lies in the Bal­ti­more com­mu­nity and try­ing to un­der­stand what is in the en­vi­ron­ment that af­fects the high asthma preva­lence,” Hansel said.

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