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Published: 5 July 2019

Authors: Rodriguez A, Brickley E, Rodrigues L, et al

Source: This abstract has been sourced from NZ Respiratory Research Review Issue 176

Urbanisation and asthma in low-income and middle-income countries: a systematic review of the urban–rural differences in asthma prevalence Thorax 2019;74:1020-1030.


Background Urbanisation has been associated with temporal and geographical differences in asthma prevalence in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs). However, little is known of the mechanisms by which urbanisation and asthma are associated, perhaps explained by the methodological approaches used to assess the urbanisation-asthma relationship.

Objective This review evaluated how epidemiological studies have assessed the relationship between asthma and urbanisation in LMICs, and explored urban/rural differences in asthma prevalence.

Methods Asthma studies comparing urban/rural areas, comparing cities and examining intraurban variation were assessed for eligibility. Included publications were evaluated for methodological quality and pooled OR were calculated to indicate the risk of asthma in urban over rural areas.

Results Seventy articles were included in our analysis. Sixty-three compared asthma prevalence between urban and rural areas, five compared asthma prevalence between cities and two examined intraurban variation in asthma prevalence. Urban residence was associated with a higher prevalence of asthma, regardless of asthma definition: current-wheeze OR:1.46 (95% CI:1.22 to 1.74), doctor diagnosis OR:1.89 (95% CI:1.47 to 2.41), wheeze-ever OR:1.44 (95% CI:1.15 to 1.81), self-reported asthma OR:1.77 (95% CI:1.33 to 2.35), asthma questionnaire OR:1.52 (95% CI:1.06 to 2.16) and exercise challenge OR:1.96 (95% CI:1.32 to 2.91).

Conclusions Most evidence for the relationship between urbanisation and asthma in LMICs comes from studies comparing urban and rural areas. These studies tend to show a greater prevalence of asthma in urban compared to rural populations. However, these studies have been unable to identify which specific characteristics of the urbanisation process may be responsible. An approach to understand how different dimensions of urbanisation, using contextual household and individual indicators, is needed for a better understanding of how urbanisation affects asthma.

PROSPERO registration number CRD42017064470.

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made. See:

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