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Environmental Research

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Asthma -- Environmental aspects, Health insurance claims -- Analysis, Bayesian statistical decision theory, Environmentally induced diseases, Diseases -- Causes and theories of causation


As of 2014, approximately 7.4% of U.S. adults had current asthma. The etiology of asthma is complex, involving genetics, behavior, and environmental factors. To explore the association between cumulative environmental quality and asthma prevalence in U.S. adults, we linked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Environmental Quality Index (EQI) to the MarketScan® Commercial Claims and Encounters Database. The EQI is a summary measure of five environmental domains (air, water, land, built, sociodemographic). We defined asthma as having at least 2 claims during the study period, 2003–2013. We used a Bayesian approach with non-informative priors, implementing mixed-effects regression modeling with a Poisson link function. Fixed effects variables were EQI, sex, race, and age. Random effects were counties. We modeled quintiles of the EQI comparing higher quintiles (worse quality) to lowest quintile (best quality) to estimate prevalence ratios (PR) and credible intervals (CIs). We estimated associations using the cumulative EQI and domain-specific EQIs; we assessed U.S. overall (non-stratified) as well as stratified by rural-urban continuum codes (RUCC) to assess rural/urban heterogeneity. Among the 71,577,118 U.S. adults with medical claims who could be geocoded to county of residence, 1,147,564 (1.6%) met the asthma definition. Worse environmental quality was associated with increased asthma prevalence using the non-RUCC-stratified cumulative EQI, comparing the worst to best EQI quintile (PR:1.27; 95% CI: 1.21, 1.34). Patterns varied among different EQI domains, as well as by rural/urban status. Poor environmental quality may increase asthma prevalence, but domain-specific drivers may operate differently depending on rural/urban status.


This work was authored as part of the Contributor's official duties as an Employee of the United States Government and is therefore a work of the United States Government. In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 105, no copyright protection is available for such works under U.S. Law.

Copyright © 2019 Elsevier B.V.



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