Completed SOAAR Asthma Research



Geographic Variability in Childhood Asthma Prevalence in Chicago

This highly-cited 2008 paper was the first to empirically demonstrate the tremendous geographic variability of childhood asthma prevalence in Chicago--which ranged from 0 to 44% by neighborhood.


The Protective Effect of Community Factors on Childhood Asthma

A follow-up to our geographic variability paper, this study found community vitality and social capital to be significant predictors of reduced asthma prevalence--suggesting that interventions which build upon these local resources may lower the asthma burden in target communities.


  • Research Paper: The Protective Effect of Community Factors on Childhood Asthma, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (June 2009)

The Association between Community Crime and Childhood Asthma Prevalence in Chicago

Prior to this study, little attention had been paid to crime exposure as a possible contributor to variability in urban childhood asthma prevalence. This study found a significant association between violent crime and childhood asthma prevalence throughout the city of Chicago.


The State of Pediatric Asthma in Chicago's Humboldt Park: A community-based study in two local elementary schools

After finding such tremendous geographic variability in childhood asthma prevalence in SOAAR's 2008 study, the team decided to go into a community with a particularly high asthma prevalence--Humboldt Park--to learn more about why this might be. They administered surveys in two elementary schools and learned that 25% of students had physician-diagnosed asthma and another 16% were likely to have undiagnosed asthma.

Moreover, caregiver stress, crime-related stress and problems with psychological coping were significantly associated with poorer asthma morbidity and control among children.  


Characterizing Community-based Asthma Knowledge in Chicago and its High Risk Neighborhoods

The goal of this study was to characterize asthma knowledge in high risk neighborhoods compared to a random sample of residents in the Chicago area. For some aspects of asthma knowledge, (e.g., nocturnal cough, cockroach allergen, and vaporizer use), general knowledge was similarly low. For other aspects, (e.g. the need for asymptomatic asthma visits and chest tightness), there were larger gaps between residents of high risk communities and the general community. High-risk neighborhoods in Chicago had lower asthma knowledge compared to the general Chicago community.



Photo by Allergy & Asthma Network

Photo by Allergy & Asthma Network



After identifying substantial disparities in childhood asthma within the city of Chicago, Dr. Gupta developed a strong interest in partnering with schools in communities with high asthma prevalence to investigate the community-level factors that may contribute to this elevated asthma burden.

She was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation via their Physician Faculty Scholars Program to develop and implement a media-based participatory asthma program for students with asthma called the STudent Asthma Research Team (START).

Learn about the history of the START and SMART programs: Watch Dr. Gupta's presentation, listed below.

2017 USAsthma Summit: "School-based asthma interventions, with lessons learned from START and SMART".  

Dr. Ruchi Gupta does a wonderful job of providing summit participants with an overview of what the START and SMART programs have achieved, including an increase in students' self-advocacy and empowerment and an increase in asthma awareness in the Chicago community.

To obtain a copy of the curriculum that Dr. Gupta refers to in the video, email



Perceived Factors Affecting Asthma among Adolescents: Experiences and findings from the StudenT Asthma Research Team (START) pilot study

This paper reports findings from the START intervention. In this after-school program, students were educated about asthma, participatory research methods, and media production to:

  1. Identify neighborhood factors affecting their own asthma through photography and writing and
  2. Address these factors by producing public service announcements to raise public awareness.  

Social support was a leading factor influencing students’ health and asthma, followed by environment and lifestyle.  



The Impact of Student-Directed Videos on Community Asthma Knowledge

This study evaluated the effectiveness of the student-produced START videos. Community members:

  • Completed a pre-test which assessed their pre-intervention asthma knowledge and behavior,
  • Watched the videos,
  • Immediately completed a post-test to assess post-intervention asthma knowledge and behavior, and
  • Completed a post-test 4 months later.


The student-directed PSAs were found to significantly increase asthma knowledge among community members, irrespective of age, gender, or race. Increased knowledge persisted through the 4-month post PSA follow-up. Of the participants who were successfully contacted for the follow-up survey, nearly 40% reported meaningful behavior-change in response to the PSAs.


Improving Community Asthma through a Student Media-Based Research Intervention

SOAAR was funded by the American Lung Association to refine START by using mobile technology. The resulting intervention was called, "Student Media-based Asthma Research Team" (SMART) and was implemented at James Hedges Elementary in Back of the Yards and Beasley Elementary in Washington Park.