Congressional leaders are showing increased respect for the asthma community by sponsoring two bills aimed at helping asthmatics around the nation. Even though only 4 percent of bills become laws, this is a pretty impressive measure by our leaders.
For most of history our disease was relatively ignored by the medical community, shrugged off as nothing more than trifling annoyance like a common cold. This gradually changed as deadly diseases like tuberculosis were defeated, allowing funds for these diseases to be allocated elsewhere. Over the period 1980 through 1995, the prevalence of asthma increased by 75 percent. From 2001 to 2011, the prevalence of asthma increased 28 percent. It is now estimated that 12 million Americans have asthma. Furthermore, it is estimated that over $56 billion is lost to medical costs, and lost school and work days, due to asthma.
The fruits of all this attention are the asthma guidelines that help physicians better treat their asthma patients. Plus newer and better asthma medicines are being introduced almost on a yearly basis. Yet the evidence suggests we still have a long way to go. In 2008, for example, half of those with asthma reported having an asthma attack. Also in 2008, almost half of those with asthma (48 percent) were instructed on how to avoid asthma triggers, and only half of them followed through on this advice.
So we still have a ways to go before all cases of asthma are either prevented or controlled. A few concerned members of Congress have gotten together to propose two bills. Here they are.
Family Asthma Act. This bill would allow the Centers for Disease Control to perform research necessary to better understand asthma, such as how many have it, how severe their asthma is, and so forth. This information could be used to determine how well asthma is being treated and managed. The goal is to create better programs for helping asthmatics prevent and control their disease.
The bill would also allow the National Institute of Health to award grants for asthma pilot projects aimed at learning what makes asthma worse or helping asthmatics gain better control over their asthma symptoms, resulting in better management of their asthma.
Asthma Management Plans in School Act. This act is actually an amendment of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to provide grants to schools for the development of asthma management plans (AMP) and the purchase of asthma medications for emergency use, if necessary.
The grants would allow schools to purchase inhalers, nebulizer machines, valved holding chambers, spacers, auto-injectable epinephrine for emergency use, for use by students at the school if needed. They would allow for the purchase of pulmonary function machines and any other asthma education tools needed.
The bill actually offers a step-by-step approach for creating AMPs. It would start by educating all staff at the school and identifying all students with asthma. A school official (a nurse perhaps) would coordinate efforts with a child’s family and doctor to develop an AMP tailored specifically for that child.
Policies would be created for helping asthmatic students when they need help. The programs would also educate each child about asthma, how to obtain and maintain good asthma control, and how and when to seek help.
Now, the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI.org) has written letters on our behalf to help get these bills passed. You can help by calling your local congress members. If all 25 million of us asthmatics takes action we can be a powerful voice in Washington.
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