Evaluation of associations between asthma exacerbations and distance to roadways using geocoded electronic health records data.
BACKGROUND: Asthma exacerbations in children often require medications, urgent care, and hospitalization. Multiple environmental triggers have been associated with asthma exacerbations, including particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) and ozone, which are primarily generated by motor vehicle exhaust. There is mixed evidence as to whether proximity to highways increases risk of asthma exacerbations. METHODS: To evaluate the impact of highway proximity, we assessed the association between asthma exacerbations and the distance of child's primary residence to two types of roadways in Durham County, North Carolina, accounting for other patient-level factors. We abstracted data from the Duke University Health System electronic health record (EHR), identifying 6208 children with asthma between 2014 and 2019. We geocoded each child's distance to roadways (both 35 MPH+ and 55 MPH+). We classified asthma exacerbation severity into four tiers and fitted a recurrent event survival model to account for multiple exacerbations. RESULTS: There was a no observed effect of residential distance from 55+ MPH highway (Hazard Ratio: 0.98 (95% confidence interval: 0.94, 1.01)) and distance to 35+ MPH roadway (Hazard Ratio: 0.98 (95% confidence interval: 0.83, 1.15)) and any asthma exacerbation. Even those children living closest to highways (less 0.25 miles) had no increased risk of exacerbation. These results were consistent across different demographic strata. CONCLUSIONS: While the results were non-significant, the characteristics of the study sample - namely farther distance to roadways and generally good ambient environmental pollution may contribute to the lack of effect. Compared to previous studies, which often relied on self-reported measures, we were able to obtain a more objective assessment of outcomes. Overall, this work highlights the opportunity to use EHR data to study environmental impacts on disease.
He, J; Ghorveh, MG; Hurst, JH; Tang, M; Alhanti, B; Lang, JE; Goldstein, BA
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