African Americans get less quality asthma care than their white counterparts, according to a new study conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. "The discrepancy in care is striking because it cannot easily be explained by socioeconomic factors or access to care," Jerry Krishnan, lead author of the study, says.

The team surveyed 5,062 managed care patients, 14 percent of them African American and 72 percent women. They adjusted their findings for age, education, employment and the severity of the patients' asthma. The difference between men and women was minor: women used their daily asthma medication slightly less often than men (50 versus 58 percent) and did not visit a specialist as frequently (38 vs.43 percent). But the differences between black and white were significant. The scientists found that only 35 percent of the African Americans, compared to 54 percents of whites, inhaled corticosteroids daily to treat their asthma. So too, only 28 percent of African Americans visited asthma specialists, whereas 41 percent of whites did. Fifty-four percent of whites said they received adequate information about how to manage their asthma during an attack and about how to avoid asthma triggers. Roughly 40 percent of African Americans said the same.

According to the researchers, these findings, published in the July 9th issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, may explain to some extent why African Americans are statistically more likely to develop severe asthma symptoms than whites. But for Krishnan, finding these statistical discrepancies is only the beginning: "We need to further investigate whether these differences in asthma care were due to doctor, patient or health care system-related barriers."