To mark the 2nd annual observance of World Asthma Day, federal and local government officials and Washington, D.C., community leaders today reported that the prevalence of asthma continues to rise in the United States, and the burden is greatest in low-income and inner-city communities. However, partnerships between the federal government and local community-based organizations are beginning to make a difference.
At a press conference at the Tyler Elementary School in Southeast Washington, D.C., Dr. Claude Lenfant, Director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), said, "While the use of asthma clinical practice guidelines has been shown to improve treatment of asthma patients, those guidelines are not used nearly enough when caring for asthma patients. It is critical that we do more to implement our guidelines at the community level so that the wealth of information on effective asthma management that our research has produced can benefit people with asthma."
In his remarks, Dr. Lenfant pointed to nationwide and Washington, D.C., metropolitan area data that graphically depict the disparity in the impact of asthma among minority populations. "We need to work more closely with the health care providers and residents of high-risk communities like Washington, D.C.," he said. "They know the local issues and can bring our information directly to the people who need it in ways that will make a difference."
The event was the official U.S. World Asthma Day press conference, co-sponsored by NHLBI, the National Library of Medicine at NIH, the Office of the Mayor of the District of Columbia and the D.C. Asthma Coalition.
Dr. Lenfant also presented a taped statement from the Surgeon General, further encouraging federal-local partnerships to deal with asthma. In addition, he recognized the D.C. Asthma Coalition for its efforts to bring together an impressive local group of partners to spearhead action against asthma in Washington, D.C. Pointing to the members of the NHLBI's National Asthma Education and Prevention Program in attendance, he also noted the long-standing work of the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America, whose efforts led to a presidential proclamation naming May as Asthma & Allergy Awareness Month many years ago.
Dr. Donald Lindberg, Director of the National Library of Medicine, emphasized the importance of asthma awareness for the community at large, when reporting on his Institute's development of a unique interactive asthma exhibit on a digital video disk. The disk will provide asthma information in an entertaining and informative format for every school and library in the country.
In addition, Grammy-award winning rap artist Coolio described his own experiences with asthma, demonstrating that with effective asthma management, people with asthma can achieve whatever they put their minds to.
The program closed with a skit written and performed by members of the Tyler Elementary School Asthma Club. The skit described what these children have learned about asthma management through the D.C. Asthma Coalition's "Open Airways for Schools" program, which teaches school nurses how to help students who have asthma learn how to manage it effectively.
As part of the World Asthma Day observance, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary today released a department-wide plan to combat asthma. Action Against Asthma: A Strategic Plan for the Department of Health and Human Services identifies priorities in asthma research and prevention. The Action Against Asthma strategic plan can be found on the Web at: http://aspe.hhs.gov/sp/asthma.
World Asthma Day is organized by the Global Initiative for Asthma, a collaborative effort of NHLBI and the World Health Organization. On this day, public officials, health organizations, and patient groups in more than 80 countries are developing activities to increase public awareness of the burden of the disease and to encourage efforts to improve asthma care.
World Asthma Day is also being observed on the Internet, via the first World Asthma Day WebVention. Beginning at 9:00 a.m. in New Zealand (3:00 p.m. Eastern time on May 2), asthma educators, public health officials, and asthma patients across the globe answered questions online and shared experiences of living with asthma. This virtual asthma convention can be accessed via NHLBI's World Asthma Day site at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov.
A listing of World Asthma Day activities occurring in the United States and local contact information is also available on the NHLBI Web site. These activities include poster contests, local press conferences, concerts, awards ceremonies, and stories of achievements resulting from good asthma care.
Major U.S. sponsors of World Asthma Day include the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology; the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology; the American College of Chest Physicians; and the American Thoracic Society.
Asthma is a chronic lung condition characterized by a narrowing of the bronchial tubes, swelling of the bronchial tube lining, and mucus secretion that can block the airway, making breathing difficult. Its prevalence has doubled throughout the world in the last 15 years. More than 10 percent of children worldwide have asthma symptoms, and in some countries, as many as 30 percent are affected. In the United States, more than 15 million people suffer from asthma. Its prevalence and severity are disproportionately higher among children and African Americans.
Additional information on asthma and World Asthma Day, along with the Webcast of the press conference, is available at the NHLBI Web site, http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov.