Community-Based Programs are Key to Addressing Asthma Triggers

Did you know that May is Asthma Awareness Month? If you or a family member are among the nearly 23 million Americans who are affected by this chronic respiratory disease, you probably already knew. Each year, in May, we increase our public awareness efforts, further strengthen our partnerships with community–based asthma organizations, and recognize exceptional asthma programs.

The chart below shows the prevalence of asthma, its cost to us as a society and what is called the “asthma disparity.” As you can see, poor and minority children suffer a greater burden from asthma and we need to work together to ensure everyone has access to the care they need to get their asthma under control.

What’s the best way to address the asthma disparity? The medical and public health communities have found that the key is a comprehensive, community-based approach that incorporates medical treatment and the management of environmental triggers like secondhand smoke, mold, dust mites and pet dander. This approach can lead to fewer asthma episodes and better quality of life for children and families struggling with asthma.

That’s why each year our National Environmental Leadership Award in Asthma Management recognizes programs that are effectively providing comprehensive care and helping people in their communities who suffer from asthma.

This year, we are honoring Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital of Memphis, Tennessee, and the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative of Baltimore, Maryland, for their important contributions to help close the gap in asthma disparities. I’m proud to recognize these asthma champions for their positive impact on the communities they serve.

Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital serves high-risk children with asthma who are recipients of Tennessee’s Medicaid Program.  They have developed a high-risk asthma registry and rely on a team of community health workers, respiratory therapists, physicians and social workers to provide asthma education. They’re making great progress – they’ve seen a 42 percent reduction in ER visits in a six-month period and a 40 percent reduction in the number of children hospitalized for asthma-related diagnoses.

The Green and Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI) serves families in Baltimore whose children are frequently hospitalized due to asthma. GHHI relies on a network of partners to deliver comprehensive asthma care in homes.  Also, they provide education on outdoor air quality and ozone alerts and how to reduce exposures as part of their asthma program. GHHI has shown a 66 percent reduction in hospitalizations and a 28 percent reduction in ER visits.  And it turns out, they are saving money. A recent study showed a return on investment of $1.72 per $1.00 invested.

I encourage you to visit to learn more about these award-winning programs. They truly are an inspiration and I wish them continued success in this important work.

It’s important to remember that clean air, climate change and our health are all connected. So, while we spread the word on the importance of comprehensive care and controlling asthma triggers inside, EPA, states, tribes and localities are continuing to make progress to cut air pollution outside. Standards in place now and under development that address smog- and soot- forming pollution and those that reduce carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases will help those struggling with asthma in two ways. First, by reducing the particulate matter and ground-level ozone that aggravate asthma, and second by cutting carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases from vehicles and power plants that fuel a changing climate, which poses threats to our health and welfare. By putting these pieces together, we’ll continue improving health and environmental protection for years to come.

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