The economic costs of asthma amounts to more than $56 billion per year from direct medical costs and indirect costs, such as missed school and work days. During President Obama's administration, EPA has made significant progress in improving air quality. In 2012, EPA strengthened the national standard for fine particle pollution, often called soot, which has been linked to a wide range of serious health effects including aggravated asthma. In 2011, former EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson signed the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which will help avoid 130,000 cases of aggravated asthma by 2016.
"Today one out of every 12 people suffers from asthma – and the numbers are increasing year after year," said EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe. "With President Obama's support, EPA has taken commonsense steps towards cleaner air, which translates to fewer asthma attacks and instances of other respiratory diseases. As we mark Asthma Awareness Month, we call on all Americans to learn more about the easy ways they can avoid asthma triggers and prevent future attacks from happening to them or their loved ones."
Asthma is a national epidemic, affecting nearly 26 million people, including seven million children and disproportionally affecting low income and minority communities. The EPA is conducting a coordinated approach to promoting scientific understanding of environmental asthma triggers and ways to manage asthma through research, education and community-focused outreach.
Serving as a national model for asthma care, the following programs are leading the way in addressing asthma disparities and are the winners of the 2013 National Environmental Leadership Award in Asthma Management:
Greenville Health System (Greenville, S.C.): A multidisciplinary, multilingual, family-centered program that is able to, with partner collaboration, provide medical care, case management, school/daycare visits, and environmental control home visits for over 4,000 children and adolescents with asthma, especially those who have limited access to health care.
Parkview Health (Fort Wayne, Ind.): The program addresses the growing incidence of asthma-related illnesses in the communities they serve. Support services, resources and age-appropriate educational information on asthma are provided. Those that are a part of the Emergency Department Asthma Call Back Program, including a high number of low-income individuals, are provided home visits to assess and minimize environmental asthma triggers.
North East Independent School District (San Antonio, Texas): The urban, diversified school district's Asthma Awareness Education Program targets the more than 8,000 students with asthma and provides direct case management strategies including counseling with families, home visits, coordination with asthma specialists, and asthma education.
State and local asthma programs across the country can take action throughout the month of May by holding community-based events to increase awareness of asthma triggers and the successful strategies for managing exposure to triggers.
American's who suffer from asthma can learn to control their symptoms and still maintain active lifestyles with these three simple steps:
1. Identify asthma triggers and avoid them. Air pollution, dust mites, secondhand smoke, mold, pests, pet dander can trigger asthma attacks. Identify and avoid personal asthma triggers – different people are affected differently. Work with your doctor to identify and avoid your triggers.
2. Create an asthma action plan. An asthma action plan will enable you to monitor your asthma on a daily basis and communicate important information about your personal asthma triggers and asthma control strategies. Ask your doctor to assist you in creating an asthma action plan.
3. Pay attention to air quality. Exposure to ozone and particle pollution can cause asthma attacks. When air quality is low, people with asthma may want to stay indoors, use air conditioning instead of open windows, and avoid outdoor activity. Check local air quality conditions and download an Air Quality Index app for smart phones.