Asthma in Western NC

Why is asthma a key health issue in western North Carolina?

The percentage of adults diagnosed with asthma in western North Carolina has declined from 11.4% in 2018 to 10% in 2021.

(WNCHN – WNC Healthy Impact Community Health Survey, 2021)

Percent of Adults in WNC with Asthma, by Year

Source: WNC Healthy Impact Community Health Survey, 2015-2021

What do the numbers say about asthma?

Western North Carolina (WNC) Data:

Approximately 1 in 10 (10%) adults in WNC have been diagnosed with asthma. The following adult populations were significantly more likely to have been diagnosed with asthma in 2021:

  • Adults aged 18-39 years (20.1%)
  • Very low income (21.8%)
  • Those identifying as Hispanic or Latino (13.7%) or Black (12.7%)
(WNCHN – WNC Healthy Impact Community Health Survey, 2021)

Differences in health outcomes across social groups, economic status, and racial/ethnic identity are closely linked with disparities in social determinants of health, which disproportionately burden individuals and communities who experience systemic disadvantage and/ or discrimination. See our data story on the social determinants of health to learn more about how the conditions in which people are born, live, work, play, learn, worship, and age can influence their ability to achieve good health for themselves and their families.

Percent of Adults in WNC Smoking Cigarettes, by Year

Source: WNC Healthy Impact Community Health Survey, 2012-2021

Tobacco use (which can trigger asthma) in WNC has declined from 19% in 2018 to 14% in 2021.

State and National Findings:

In 2015, 13.4% of North Carolinians answered “yes” when asked if they had ever been told by a healthcare professional that they had asthma.

(N.C. State Center for Health Statistics, 2016)

About 1 in 10 children (10%) had asthma and 1 in 12 adults (8%) had asthma in 2009. Women were more likely than men and boys more likely than girls to have asthma. 

(CDC, 2011)

In 2004, the total estimated economic cost of asthma, including direct and indirect costs, for North Carolina exceeded $706 million dollars.

(Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2014)

The greatest rise in asthma rates was among black children (almost a 50% increase) from 2001 through 2009.

(CDC, 2011)

What did the region say is the story behind the asthma numbers?

Source: WNCHN – Online Key Informant Survey, 2018

The items below are paraphrased themes that emerged from a 2018 regional survey of key informants. These responses do not necessarily:

  • Reflect accurate or scientifically validated information about health determinants, outcomes, and/or strategies for change,
  • Represent an exhaustive list of factors that can help or hurt efforts to address this key regional health issue.

The information in this section should be interpreted and used with care. It should be used only to help local health departments and agencies begin to understand community perceptions about local health issues. Communities are strongly encouraged to collect their own, local-level data to inform local planning and evaluation activities.

What’s Helping?

  • More smoke free locations
  • More awareness and attention on asthma
  • Available medical care
  • Increased focus on overall health and nutrition
  • Focus on clean and healthy air quality
  • Improved provider awareness and early education

What’s Hurting?

  • Lack of school nurses
  • Lack of insurance
  • Cost of medications
  • Increased use of vaping

What we are hearing:

“More open conversations about asthma and upper respiratory infections.”

“The focus on overall health and nutrition is very helpful to overcoming this. Also, there is a good focus on keeping our air clean and healthful.”

“Air quality, pollution, and lack of low cost and accessible medical care…We should acknowledge barriers to people… including transportation, awareness of services, stigma around free medical care, and treatment when receiving care or services.”

How is the region prioritizing this issue?

The western North Carolina region includes 17 communities: 16 counties and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI)

In the 2021 CHA cycle, while no communities chose to prioritize asthma, asthma is linked with other health priorities in WNC such as obesity.

What is already happening regionally?

The list below represents a sample of what is happening in the region around this key health issue. Visit for more resources.

  • Program (Mission Children’s Hospital, with support from the NCDHHS Office of Rural Health)
  • The regional dataset (WNC Healthy Impact Community Health Survey and Online Key Informant Survey) is available thanks to contributions from hospitals in the 16-county region of western North Carolina. Thank you!