Hopkins to study link between obesity and asthma in kids
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.