Chronic respiratory symptoms prevalent among Alaska natives

(NORTHBROOK, IL, May 10, 2004) Chronic respiratory symptoms are prominent among Alaska Native children in the Yukon-Kuskokwim delta (YK delta) region of Alaska, with symptoms varying greatly within the geographic location.

In a study published in the May issue of CHEST, the peer-reviewed journal of the American College of Chest Physicians, 40 percent of Alaska Native (AN) and American Indian (AI) children in the YK delta region of Alaska experienced chronic respiratory symptoms, including chronic productive cough, asthma, and asthma-like symptoms. The study also found that respiratory symptoms varied dramatically by location within the YK delta, with children from rural villages experiencing a lower incidence of asthma-like symptoms and a higher prevalence of chronic productive cough than children from the nearby town of Bethel.

"There is limited documentation of these conditions among Alaska Natives and American Indians, so our study is helpful for parents, physicians, and leaders in these communities in understanding the degree to which these conditions are present among AN/AI youth," said Toby C. Lewis, MD, MPH, University of Michigan School of Medicine, Ann Arbor, MI, who conducted the research with colleagues while at the University of Washington, Seattle, WA. "Health policy makers can also use this information to help develop culturally appropriate educational messages and intervention programs to address childhood respiratory illness in these communities."

Researchers affiliated with the University of Washington and the YK Delta Regional Hospital in Bethel determined how prevalent asthma and chronic respiratory symptoms were among AN/AI children in Alaska by studying a sample population of middle school students in the YK delta region of Alaska. Students in grades 6 to 9 from Bethel and two rural villages completed an asthma and allergy survey after watching an accompanying asthma video. A question was added to the basic survey

Contact: Jennifer Stawarz
American College of Chest Physicians

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