Asthma prevalence in European, Maori, and Pacific children in New Zealand: ISAAC study.Pediatr Pulmonol. 2004 May; 37(5):433-42.PP
The International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) demonstrated that the highest prevalence of asthma in the world is in English-speaking countries, including New Zealand. In this paper, we compare asthma symptom prevalence in the three major ethnic groups (Maori, Pacific, and European) in the six participating centers in New Zealand. Hospital admission rates for asthma are higher among Maori and Pacific children compared to European children. The working hypothesis was that there were important differences in prevalence of asthma symptoms or diagnosis between ethnic groups which might explain these observed differences in asthma morbidity. In each center in 1992-1993, we sampled approximately 3000 children at each of the age brackets 6-7 years and 13-14 years. There were 37592 participants. Maori children had higher rates of diagnosed asthma and reported asthma symptoms than Pacific children in both age groups (diagnosed asthma in 6-7-year-olds: Maori, 31.7%; Pacific, 21.2%; 95% confidence interval on difference (CID), 7.2, 13.8; P < 0.001; 13-14-year-olds: Maori, 24.7%; Pacific, 19.2%; CID 2.5, 8.5; P < 0.001; recent wheeze in 6-7-year-olds: Maori, 27.6%; Pacific, 22.0%; CID, 2.6, 8.6; P < 0.001; 13-14-year-olds: Maori, 30.8%; Pacific, 21.1%; CID, 4.8, 14.5; P < 0.001;). European children had rates intermediate between those of Maori and Pacific children (6-7-year-olds) or similar to those of Maori children (13-14-year-olds), but had the lowest prevalence of night waking with wheeze in both age groups (e.g., 6-7-year-olds: European, 2.6%; Maori, 5.8%; Pacific, 5.7%; European-Maori CID: -4.2, -2.2, P < 0.001; European-Pacific CID: -4.7, -1.7, P < 0.001; Maori-Pacific CID: -1.7, 1.8, P = 1.0). The pattern of differences closely resembled that in a 1985 Auckland study, despite a 1.5-1.7-fold overall increase in prevalence. In conclusion, there are important differences in asthma prevalence among Maori, Pacific, and European children. These differences are small compared to worldwide variation, but their pattern is stable over time. The higher rate of severe asthma symptoms that Maori and Pacific children report may be one reason for the increased asthma morbidity in these groups. Further studies are needed to determine the reasons for these apparent differences in asthma severity.