Christine Loftus

Project title: Development and Attempted Validation of an Asthma Vulnerability Index for Use in Targeting Schools of Region 10 EPA

Degree: MPH | Program: Environmental and Occupational Health (EOH) | Project type: Thesis/Dissertation
Completed in: 2010 | Faculty advisor: Catherine Karr


The coordinator of Children's Environmental Health and Environmental Education in EPA Region 10 identified the need for a systematic collection of existing databases describing environmental hazards, health outcomes, biomarkers of exposure, and socio-demographic factors associated with the incidence of environmentally linked diseases in children. Indicators derived from these data could be used in collaboration with other programs in Region 10 to target specific geographic areas in WA, OR, AK and ID where children may be most at risk from environmental hazards. A searchable inventory of the most important databases was created, including a critical assessment of the potential use and limitations of each database for GIS applications to identify high risk populations. Important data gaps were identified and discussed in consideration of the costs and other burdens of data collection. As a demonstration of the use of the database inventory, we proposed the development of an asthma vulnerability index, to estimate which schools in WA have populations of students most susceptible to indoor and outdoor air conditions that cause or exacerbate asthma. Indicators used to build this targeting model include: prevalence of asthma in the surrounding zip code, percent of student population qualifying for free lunches, percent minority students, proximity of school grounds to a high-density roadway, neighborhood crime rates, childhood obesity rates, estimates of particulate matter and ozone levels in the ambient air for the school census tract, and whether the school is located in a high woodsmoke concentration area. We will attempt to validate predictions of the model with results from the annual Washington State Healthy Youth Survey, which yields estimates of asthma prevalence for randomly sampled schools across the state.