national asthma forum

Asthma Disparities: Working Towards a Solution

Asthma remains a critical public health challenge – nearly 25 million people in the U.S. have asthma, including 7 million children. But what is perhaps even more alarming is how asthma disproportionately affects minority and disadvantaged children. Among children with asthma, black and Hispanic children are twice as likely to be hospitalized and black children over 4 times more likely to die from asthma than white children. In addition, minority children are less likely than white children to have been prescribed asthma medications.

The causes of asthma disparities are not yet fully understood, but are likely a result of a variety of factors including genetics, environmental exposures, access to programs and policies that influence the control of asthma, and socioeconomic factors, such as housing quality and family and community social supports.

EPA is on the front lines of the fight against asthma disparities and I’m excited about the work we’re doing. For example, we’re supporting community-based asthma programs in Puerto Rico that specifically target improving school environments for children in districts throughout the territory.

EPA is also working with other agencies to develop a Federal Action Plan to Reduce Asthma Disparities. This includes identifying immediate actions that we can take in order to better leverage our collective assets across agencies to reduce asthma disparities.

EPA’s Communities in Action National Asthma Forum brings national, state and community level asthma experts and professionals together from across the country to share their experiences, knowledge and best practices about providing successful asthma programming in the community. This event offers an opportunity like no other to openly discuss barriers and challenges impacting underserved populations, as well as to get advice from others in the field who have found success. This year’s National Asthma Forum is taking place in Washington, DC, June 9-10. It’s really a can’t-miss opportunity. Also, AsthmaCommunityNetwork.org is another great place to exchange ideas and knowledge about health disparities with asthma professionals.

There is still much to understand about how to prevent asthma and tailor interventions to serve disproportionately impacted populations, but every day we get a little closer to finding the solutions.

About the Author: Alisa Smith is a biologist with the Indoor Environments Division’s Asthma Education and Outreach Program EPA’s Office Air and Radiation.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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A Call to Action on Asthma

Over 20 years ago, I worked in a pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) where every day I saw children in serious distress from asthma. Most got better, but some returned time and again…and a few never went home. It was heartbreaking; especially because in many cases, their distress could have been prevented.

I felt called to help children make changes that would allow them to lead active, healthy lives unencumbered by asthma symptoms – to give them and their families the knowledge they needed to take control of asthma. It was then that I transitioned my career to promote asthma education and empower communities to manage asthma. It was, and continues to be, my goal that not one more person dies from asthma.

At EPA, where I have worked for the last 13 years, that mission is shared. We have partnered with other federal agencies, national, state, and local nonprofit organizations and hundreds of communities nationwide to promote environmental trigger management as part of comprehensive asthma care.

Part of EPA’s activities include convening the National Asthma Forum; providing support to a growing network of community asthma programs; promoting community action and events during Asthma Awareness Month; and recognizing health plans, providers and communities that are addressing environmental asthma triggers with the National Environmental Leadership Award in Asthma Management.

Our most important activity, though, is empowering individuals to control asthma through education. Everyone in a community has a role in helping people manage asthma. Here are some actions you can take:

  • Learn about asthma, environmental triggers and what you can do to control them.
  • Plan or participate in an Asthma Awareness Month event this May.
  • Talk to a nurse, the school board, the principal, the PTA or other leaders in your school district about how they can help students by controlling asthma triggers.
  • Encourage your care provider to attend the National Asthma Forum.

I’ll never forget the struggles I saw in the PICU that inspired me on my path with EPA to educate and empower families affected by asthma. I hope each of you will join me in taking action. What will you do in your community to raise awareness about asthma and spread the message about comprehensive asthma management?

About the Author: Tracey Mitchell is an Environmental Scientist with the Office of Radiation and Indoor Air’s Indoor Environments Division and works on the EPA Asthma Team.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.