The national burden of poorly controlled asthma, school absence and parental work loss among school-aged children in the United States

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Objective: The degree of poorly controlled asthma and its association with missed school days and parental missed work days is not well understood. Methods: This was a retrospective analysis of missed school days and missed work days for school-aged children (SAC; aged 6–17) and their caregivers in the nationally representative 2007–2013 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS). Indicators of poor asthma control included: exacerbation in previous 12 months; use of >3 canisters of short-acting beta agonist (SABA) in 3 months; and annual asthma-specific (AS) Emergency Department (ED) or inpatient (IP) visits. Negative binomial regression was used for missed school days, and a Heckman two-step selection model was used for missed work days. All analyses controlled for sociodemographics and other covariates. Results: There were 44,320 SAC in MEPS, of whom 5,890 had asthma. SAC with asthma and an indicator of poor control missed more school days than SAC without asthma: exacerbation (1.8 times more; p < 0.001); >3 canisters SABA (2.7 times more; p < 0.001) and ED/IP visit (3.8 times more; p < 0.001). The parents/caregivers of SAC with asthma and an exacerbation missed 1.2 times more work days (p < 0.05), while those with SAC with asthma and an ED/IP visit missed 1.8 times more work days (p < 0.01) than the parents of SAC without asthma. Conclusions: This study provides evidence of the significant national burden of poorly controlled asthma due to missed school and work days in the United States. More effective and creative asthma management strategies, with collaboration across clinical, community and school-based outreach, may help address this burden.

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