BACKGROUND: Pediatric asthma is a serious public health problem in Chicago and has been designated a high priority concern by residents of Chicago's Humboldt Park, a diverse community area with a large number of Puerto Rican, African American, and Mexican American families. METHODS: In May 2009, following the principles of community-based participatory research, a cross-sectional asthma screening survey was administered to adult caregivers of children attending two Humboldt Park elementary schools. Data were analyzed to determine the prevalence of diagnosed and probable asthma as well as the degree of asthma control among affected children; associations between asthma outcomes and mutable triggers were evaluated. RESULTS: Surveys from 494 children were evaluated. Physician-diagnosed asthma was reported for 24.9% of children and probable asthma identified in an additional 16.2% of children. Asthma was poorly or moderately controlled in 60.0% of diagnosed children. Smoking occurred inside 25.0% of households and 75.0% of caregivers reported idling of vehicles in their community. Report of general stress among caregivers, stress due to community crime, and/or an inability to cope with everyday life were significantly and positively associated with poor asthma morbidity and control among affected children. CONCLUSIONS: Despite high prevalence rates and poor asthma morbidity and control in Humboldt Park, the association of these measures with mutable variables is promising. A community-based asthma intervention to address the issues identified in this study is needed to affect positive change.