News Release

Monday, April 30, 2012

NIH statement on World Asthma Day 2012 - May 1, 2012

Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Susan B. Shurin, M.D., Acting Director, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Linda S. Birnbaum, Ph.D., Director, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Alan E. Guttmacher, M.D., Director, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

On World Asthma Day 2012, we at the National Institutes of Health stand with the Global Initiative for Asthma to renew our dedication to improving the quality of life for the millions of people living with asthma.

Asthma affects more than 230 million people worldwide, including more than 25 million people in the United States. There is no way to prevent, or to cure, asthma. Existing treatments focus on preventing or controlling disease symptoms, such as wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and coughing. Despite these efforts, each year more than half of children and one-third of adults with asthma in the United States miss school or work because of the disease, approximately 17 million people require medical attention because of an asthma episode, and more than 3,000 asthma-related deaths occur.

Four NIH institutes — the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID); the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI); the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS); and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) — support basic and clinical research to understand the causes of asthma and the factors that contribute to its progression. Although each institute has a different focus, we all work together to help develop effective prevention and treatment strategies for the disease.

In March 2012, NIH, together with the Merck Childhood Asthma Network Inc., and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, published a report that for the first time promotes standardization across asthma clinical studies. Asthma Outcomes in Clinical Research: Report of the Asthma Outcomes Workshop establishes common measures and data-collection methods to enable researchers to compare their results more efficiently. This standardization promises to enhance asthma clinical research and lead to improvements in the quality of asthma care.

In August 2011, NIH held a workshop, The Early Life Origins of Asthma: Strategies for Primary Prevention. Asthma typically begins early in childhood, and the goal of the workshop was to identify specific factors that may predict a person’s risk of developing asthma during the first 1,000 days of life. Such factors include environmental exposures, genetics and events that occur in pregnancy and early infancy. Workshop attendees concluded that understanding the early risk factors for asthma may provide an opportunity to prevent asthma before it begins.

NIH remains committed to working with individuals, families and health care professionals to reduce the worldwide burden of asthma. We commend our investigators who continue to make significant progress in asthma research, and we thank the people who have participated in NIH-sponsored asthma clinical studies, as well as to the nongovernmental organizations that provide support for those affected by this disease. We all share the hope that further research will uncover the causes of asthma so that the disease can one day be effectively prevented.

NIAID supports studies of the immune system's role in the development of asthma and evaluates new approaches to treat and prevent the disease. NHLBI funds a broad asthma research portfolio — including studies on risk factors, mechanisms that influence disease severity, and identifying novel therapies — and the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program, which translates research into clinical practice to improve asthma control and quality of life. NIEHS supports research to understand how exposures to environmental agents trigger asthma, and how we can better prevent, diagnose and treat such exposures. NICHD conducts and supports research on all stages of human development, including research directed to those early life stages when chronic diseases such as asthma might be prevented.

NIAID conducts and supports research — at NIH, throughout the United States, and worldwide — to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses. News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site at

Part of the National Institutes of Health, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) plans, conducts, and supports research related to the causes, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart, blood vessel, lung, and blood diseases; and sleep disorders. The Institute also administers national health education campaigns on women and heart disease, healthy weight for children, and other topics. NHLBI press releases and other materials are available online at

The NIEHS supports research to understand the effects of the environment on human health and is part of NIH. For more information on environmental health topics, visit Subscribe to one or more of the NIEHS news lists to stay current on NIEHS news, press releases, grant opportunities, training, events, and publications.

About the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD): The NICHD sponsors research on development, before and after birth; maternal, child, and family health; reproductive biology and population issues; and medical rehabilitation. For more information, visit the Institute’s Web site at NICHD support was provided through the Best Pharmaceuticals for Children Act program, which seeks to improve pediatric therapeutics through preclinical and clinical drug trials that lead to drug labeling changes.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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