By NAEMA AHMED, HELEN LYONS, DANIEL TRIELLI and ANA HURLER
Capital News Service
COLLEGE PARK, Maryland — ZIP code 21223 in Southwest Baltimore’s Carrollton Ridge neighborhood — one the city’s poorest — is the worst asthma hot spot in Baltimore, a Capital News Service and Kaiser Health News analysis of Maryland hospital records found.
Residents of this ZIP code visit hospitals with asthma problems at three times the average rate for Maryland. Experts says the prevalence of boarded-up houses, rats, mice and trash-filled alleys in this poor, majority African-American neighborhood contribute to the problem.
To perform the analysis, Capital News Service and Kaiser Health News obtained two databases maintained by the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission that offer rich detail about how patients use Maryland hospitals and emergency rooms. The set of more than 6 million records covers visits between mid-2012 to mid-2016.
Here are the three most interesting things our analysis uncovered about asthma prevalence in ZIP Code 21223, Baltimore and Maryland.
1. More than one in 10 people from ZIP code 21223 who went to the emergency room had an asthma diagnosis, nearly triple the rate for Maryland.
Nearly 12 percent of patients from ZIP code 21223 who visited the emergency room between June 2012 and April 2016 were diagnosed with asthma, the analysis found, the highest rate of any Baltimore city ZIP code and nearly triple the rate for the state of Maryland.
Darker shades on these maps — evident in poorer parts of East and West Baltimore — represent higher rates of asthma diagnoses.
The same trend is evident for in-patient hospital stays.
Of patients from ZIP code 21223 who were admitted to the hospital during the same time period, nearly 12 percent were diagnosed with asthma, the second highest rate amongst Baltimore city ZIP codes and nearly double the rate for the state of Maryland, the analysis found.
2. There is a strong relationship between a ZIP Code’s asthma rate and its median income, its African-American population and the number of vacant houses.
Like ZIP code 21223, Baltimore ZIP codes with elevated asthma rates (in-patient and emergency room) were significantly more likely to have a higher percentage of African-American residents, as these graphics of in-patient and emergency room asthma rates show.
Like ZIP code 21223, Baltimore ZIP codes with elevated asthma rates were significantly more likely to have a higher percentage of vacant homes, as these graphics of in-patient and emergency room asthma rates show.
Like ZIP code 21223, Baltimore ZIP codes with elevated asthma rates were significantly more likely to have a lower median household income, as these graphics of in-patient and emergency room asthma rates show.
3. It costs more to treat asthma patients in ZIP code 21223 than in other parts of the city.
In ZIP code 21223, the average amount charged for patients who were admitted to the hospital between January 2013 and December 2015 and whose principal diagnosis was related to asthma was $9,278.09, above the city and state average.
For emergency room asthma visits, the average charge for patients from 21223 was $897.41, above the average for the city and the state. The estimate of total charges is conservative, because it excludes patients who only had a secondary diagnosis related to asthma.