Updated Asthma Guidelines: We Have Information - Will Inspiration Follow?
Yesterday the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (NAEPP) issued its first comprehensive update of the clinical guidelines for the diagnosis and management of asthma in 10 years.
The revision emphasizes prevention -- patients are urged to be aware of daily symptoms, their specific triggers and effective use of medications so asthma episodes can be avoided. Also, now different treatments are included for three age categories, 0 to 4, 5 to 11 and 12 and older, instead of addressing the needs of two groups as written in the previous guidelines. The third major area of change is a greater emphasis on monitoring the severity of each patient's asthma over time and changing medications accordingly.
These guidelines provide a firm foundation for effective diagnosis and treatment, just as the previous document did, but there seems to be a major disconnect as patients continue to suffer. We have excellent medications and effective delivery systems, yet, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 4,000 deaths each year and 500,000 hospitalizations.
I propose that expectations need to be raised. Asthma patients need to understand that they should be able to sleep through the night, work all day, be active and have few, if any, medication side effects. If they are living a compromised lifestyle, their healthcare professionals need to know. Patients should also expect their professionals to be aware of, understand and follow the new asthma footprint that the NAEPP has provided. A simple, "So how do you feel about the new asthma guidelines?" should prompt a professional to catch up, if he/she is unaware of the revised guidelines.
Healthcare professionals also need to raise their expectations. Patients should take notes during appointments! This is the only way individuals can digest fresh information, learn unfamiliar jargon and correctly pass it on to others and change routines. Whether the patient is receiving a newly prescribed medication, a new type of inhaler or dosing changes, healthcare professionals should expect the best from the patient, but also take the time to equip him/her with adequate information for success.
The new asthma guidelines provide vital information...and I hope a healthy dose of inspiration.