New Asthma Action Plan!

Lung anatomyBy Sally Perreault Darney, Ph.D. 

As asthma awareness month comes to a close, a new window of opportunity for helping children with asthma is opening.  Today EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, in partnership with senior leaders of the US Departments of Health and Human Services, and of Housing and Urban Development, is rolling out a new Action Plan for reducing racial and ethnic asthma disparities.  

As an EPA scientist working in human health, I am honored to have served on the work group that developed this plan over the past two years.  I enjoyed meeting asthma experts from across the Federal Government, from academia, and from advocacy groups, and attending workshops and meeting where we discussed the many dimensions of asthma. 

Did you know that approximately seven million children aged 0 to 17 in the United States suffer from this complex disease which is caused and/or aggravated by a host of environmental, genetic and social-economic factors? And that children from minority groups and children from low-income households are at greater risk for having the disease and, once they have it, they are at greater risk of suffering more because of it?   

My job was to convey how the research we do in EPA provides a critical environmental piece of the larger public health puzzle that is asthma, and how we can contribute to implementing the new plan.

Our research is helping to figure out why certain children get asthma and suffer disproportionately from it.  For example, we are evaluating the extent to which living near a busy street may increase a child’s risk for asthma.  We also evaluate whether certain diets, such as those rich in omega 3 fatty acids, may reduce the severity of asthma for some children.  And of course we are trying to determine what causes a child to get asthma to begin with.

“The Coordinated Federal Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Asthma Disparities: Promoting Greater Collaboration and More Effective Use of Resources to Reduce the Burden of Asthma for Minority Children and Children Living Below the Poverty Level,” is aimed at increasing coordination of Federal programs, including those in EPA, designed to get the right asthma care with the right support to the right children.  It offers ways to help doctors, school nurses, and parents work together to ensure that children with asthma receive the most appropriate treatment, and that homes and schools will be asthma-friendly places in which all children can learn, play and thrive.   

About the Author: Sally Perreault Darney, Ph.D., is an Associate National Program Director for EPA’s Sustainable and Healthy Communities research program. She has 20 years of research experience in reproductive toxicology and epidemiology, with a focus on pre-conception and prenatal determinants of children’s health.