World Asthma Day 2001 Highlights Asthma Successes and Challenges

Vol. 14 •Issue 10 • Page 26
World Asthma Day 2001 Highlights Asthma Successes and Challenges

By Shawn M. Proctor

World Asthma Day 2001 on May 3, kicked off events for Asthma and Allergy Month. The theme for the third annual version is joining together against asthma, in recognition that it takes persistent and collective efforts at the local, state, national and global levels to impact this growing public health problem. The goal is to bring attention to asthma by:

• Raising awareness that asthma is a serious public health problem;

• Increasing recognition of the symptoms of asthma;

• Communicating scientific progress being made; and

• Involving public authorities and patient organizations to implement effective asthma management programs.

Coordinated by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (NAEPP) in the U.S., World Asthma Day highlights the importance for all people with asthma to be diagnosed, receive appropriate treatment, learn how to manage their asthma and reduce exposure to environmental factors that exacerbate their condition.

Citing new data showing continuing increases in rates of asthma-related hospitalizations, emergency department visits and deaths, especially among minority populations, the NHLBI called on all members of the community to embrace this cause.

Overall coordination was handled by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA).

“World Asthma Day is an opportunity to draw attention to the global burden of asthma, and the need to improve asthma care worldwide,” said Claude Lenfant, MD, director of NHLBI. “We are hoping to promote widespread participation to underscore the importance of continual vigilance to the problem of asthma.”


“It is encouraging that more groups are joining in the fight. But more still must be done,” Lenfant said. “We need to take aggressive action to reach all Americans with asthma with messages about effective asthma management that our research has produced so that they can take control and lead normal, active lives.”

According to the NAEPP, over 150 million people in the world are diagnosed with asthma. In the United States, an estimated 14.9 million people have it. The prevalence increased by 102 percent between 1979-80 and 1993-94.

In the U.S., rates of asthma deaths, hospitalizations, and emergency department visits have increased, especially among African Americans and children. Since 1979-82, the average age-adjusted asthma death rate for blacks has increased 71 percent versus 41 percent for Caucasians; and in 1995-1998, it was almost three times that of Caucasians.

While the number of adults with asthma is greater than the number of children with asthma, the prevalence of asthma is rising more rapidly in preschool age children than in any other group.

Similarly, between 1992 and 1998, rates of emergency department visits for asthma increased, with the greatest increase in children ages 10-17. Children under five accounted for the highest rates of emergency department visits. Hospitalization rates also rose during this time period. Between 1979-81 and 1997-99, hospitalization rates for children under five increased 48 percent. In 1997-99, hospitalization rates were more than three times higher for African Americans than for whites.


The cost of asthma in 2000 was estimated to be $12.7 billion, with direct costs amounting to $8.1 billion and lost earnings due to illness and death totaling $4.6 billion.

World Asthma Day is a partnership between health care groups and asthma educators organized by the Global Initiative for Asthma, a collaborative effort of the NHLBI and the World Health Organization. On this day, public officials, health organizations, and patient groups in countries throughout the world developed special activities to increase public awareness of the burden of the disease and to encourage efforts to improve asthma care.

More than 40 organizations throughout the U.S. organized asthma education activities in conjunction with World Asthma Day 2001. These included three community-based asthma events in communities with exceptionally high asthma death rates. The programs are funded by NHLBI to develop innovative, model programs for improving asthma care, especially among children, minorities and low-income individuals. These are the models: Merced/Mariposa Asthma Coalition in Fresno, Calif.; the Chicago Asthma Consortium; and the Columbia University Asthma Coalition in New York.

Other organizations developing major World Asthma Day 2001 activities include: the Allergy and Asthma Network/Mothers of Asthmatics Inc.; American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology; American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology; American Lung Association; Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. n

Shawn M. Proctor can be reached at [email protected].

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