Pediatric asthma incidence in Texas and associations with ambient ozone levels in an urban area an analysis using Medicaid claims data

Judith K Wendt, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Few recent estimates of childhood asthma incidence exist in the literature, although the importance of incidence surveillance for understanding asthma risk factors has been recognized. Asthma prevalence, morbidity and mortality reports have repeatedly shown that low-income children are disproportionately impacted by the disease. The aim of this study was to demonstrate the utility of Medicaid claims data for providing statewide estimates of asthma incidence. Medicaid Analytic Extract (MAX) data for Texas children ages 0-17 enrolled in Medicaid between 2004 and 2007 were used to estimate incidence overall and by age group, gender, race and county of residence. A 13+ month period of continuous enrollment was required in order to distinguish incident from prevalent cases identified in the claims data. Age-adjusted incidence of asthma was 4.26/100 person-years during 2005-2007, higher than reported in other populations. Incidence rates decreased with age, were higher for males than females, differed by race, and tended to be higher in rural than urban areas. With this study, we were able to demonstrate the utility of MAX data for estimating asthma incidence, and create a dataset of incident cases to use in further analysis. In subsequent analyses, we investigated a possible association between ambient air pollutants and incident asthma among Medicaid-enrolled children in Harris County Texas between 2005 and 2007. This population is at high risk for asthma, and living in an area with historically poor air quality. We used a time-stratified case-crossover design and conditional logistic regression to calculate odds ratios, adjusted for weather variables and aeroallergens, to assess the effect of increases in ozone, NO2 and PM2.5 concentrations on risk of developing asthma. Our results show that a 10 ppb increase in ozone was significantly associated with asthma during the warm season (May-October), with the strongest effect seen when a 6-day cumulative lag period was used to compute the exposure metric (OR=1.05, 95% CI, 1.02–1.08). Similar results were seen for NO2 and PM 2.5 (OR=1.07, 95% CI, 1.03–1.11 and OR=1.12, 95% CI, 1.03–1.22, respectively). PM2.5 also had significant effects in the cold season (November-April), 5-day cumulative lag: OR=1.11, 95% CI, 1.00–1.22. When compared with children in the lowest quartile of O3 exposure, the risk for children in the highest quartile was 20% higher. This study indicates that these pollutants are associated with newly-diagnosed childhood asthma in this low-income urban population, particularly during the summer months.

Subject Area

Environmental Health|Epidemiology

Recommended Citation

Wendt, Judith K, "Pediatric asthma incidence in Texas and associations with ambient ozone levels in an urban area an analysis using Medicaid claims data" (2012). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3522092.