Open Access Research article

The prevalence of childhood asthma in China: a systematic review

Yangzong Yangzong1*, Zumin Shi67, Per Nafstad13, Lise Lund Håheim45, Ouzhu Luobu2 and Espen Bjertness12

Author affiliations

1 Institute of Health and Society, University of Oslo, P.O.Box 1130 Blindern, Oslo 0318, Norway

2 Tibet University Medical College, Tibet Autonomous Region, China

3 Division of Epidemiology, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo Norway

4 Norwegian Knowledge Centre for the Health Service, Oslo Norway

5 Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, University of Oslo, Oslo Norway

6 Jiangsu Provincial Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Nanjing, China

7 Discipline of Medicine, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2012, 12:860  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-860

Published: 10 October 2012



It is well known that the prevalence of asthma has been reported to increase in many places around the world during the last decades. Therefore, the aim of this study was to identify and review studies of asthma prevalence among children in China and address time trends and regional variation in asthma.


A systematic literature search was performed using PubMed and China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) databases. Selected articles had to describe an original study that showed the prevalence of asthma among children aged 0−14 years.


A total of 74 articles met the inclusion criteria. The lifetime prevalence of asthma varied between 1.1% in Lhasa (Tibet) and 11.0% in Hong Kong in studies following the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) protocol. The prevalence was 3% or lower in most articles following Chinese diagnostic criteria. One article reported the results from two national surveys and showed that the current average prevalence of asthma for the total study population had increased from 1990 to 2000 (0.9% to 1.5%). The lowest current prevalence was found in Lhasa (0.1% in 1990, 0.5% in 2000).


The prevalence of childhood asthma was generally low, both in studies following the ISAAC and Chinese diagnostic criteria. Assessment of time trends and regional variations in asthma prevalence was difficult due to insufficient data, variation in diagnostic criteria, difference in data collection methods, and uncertainty in prevalence measures. However, the findings from one large study of children from 27 different cities support an increase in current prevalence of childhood asthma from 1990 to 2000. The lowest current prevalence of childhood asthma was found in Tibet.

Asthma; Children; Prevalence; Altitude; Systematic review