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What Can Be Done about Asthma in the US?

Asthma image

Percentage of adults with asthma in the US (2009)

The number of people diagnosed with asthma grew by 4.3 million from 2001 to 2009. From 2001 through 2009 asthma rates rose the most among black children, almost a 50% increase. Asthma was linked to 3,447 deaths (about 9 per day) in 2007. Asthma costs in the US grew from about $53 billion in 2002 to about $56 billion in 2007, about a 6% increase. Greater access to medical care is needed for the growing number of people with asthma. What can be done?

Federal, state, and local health officials can

  • Track asthma rates and the effectiveness of control measures so continuous improvements can be made in prevention efforts.
  • Promote influenza and pneumonia vaccination for people with asthma.
  • Promote improvements in indoor air quality for people with asthma through measures such as smoke-free air laws and policies, healthy schools and workplaces, and improvements in outdoor air quality.

Health care providers can

  • Determine the severity of asthma and monitor how much control the patient has over it.
  • Make an asthma action plan for patients. Use this to teach them how to use inhaled corticosteroids and other prescribed medicines correctly and how to avoid asthma triggers such as tobacco smoke, mold, pet dander, and outdoor air pollution.
  • Prescribe inhaled corticosteroids for all patients with persistent asthma.

People with asthma and parents of children with asthma can

  • Receive ongoing appropriate medical care.
  • Be empowered through education to manage their asthma and asthma attacks.
  • Avoid asthma triggers at school, work, home, and outdoors. Parents of children with asthma should not smoke, or if they do, smoke only outdoors and not in their cars.
  • Use inhaled corticosteroids and other prescribed medicines correctly.

Schools and school nurses can

  • Use student asthma action plans to guide use of inhaled corticosteroids and other prescribed asthma medicines correctly and to avoid asthma triggers.
  • Make students’ quick-relief inhalers readily available for them to use at school as needed.
  • Take steps to fix indoor air quality problems like mold and outdoor air quality problems such as idling school buses.

Employers and insurers can

  • Promote healthy workplaces by reducing or eliminating known asthma triggers.
  • Promote measures that prevent asthma attacks such as increasing access to inhaled corticosteroids and other prescribed medicines.
  • Encourage home environmental sessions conducted by clinicians, health educators, and other health professionals both within and outside of the clinical setting.