Worcester, state officials work to keep asthma problem from being swept under the rug

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The northeast United States is the nation’s asthma belt. Massachusetts has one of the highest rates of asthma in the country and Worcester has one of the highest asthma hospitalization rates in Massachusetts. All together, that means Worcester is one of the most difficult cities in the country in which to take a breath.

The state’s perennially high ranking in this unfortunate category, while under the radar as general knowledge, has been catching the attention of health professionals for a long time. But they have not been able to reverse the tide. Massachusetts continues to rank highly, and in some years leads the nation, in asthma cases per capita.


This year, the American Lung Association gave an ‘F’ grade to seven Massachusetts counties as part of its annual “State of the Air” report that assigns letter grades to counties throughout the country based on ozone and particle pollution. The cleanest Massachusetts counties were Berkshire to the west and Suffolk to the east. They received a grade of C.

Worcester County, benefiting from being in the hills, received a D. But the city itself ranks as one of the most asthma-laden in the state. [Editor’s note: See page 96 of the linked report.]

The reasons why are numerous – substandard housing, low awareness of how to combat the affliction, and the general dirt and grime associated with an urban area. Still, there are many cities across the country that fare much better on the asthma scale.

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