This week in May kicks off the start of Asthma Awareness Month.
According to the National Institutes of Health, asthma impacts 230 million people around the world, and 25 million in the US alone. Studies released today to mark asthma awareness observances include a report that finds that secondhand smoke remains a critical health risk for many children, and that seniors are often under-treated for asthma, putting their health and lives at risk.
There is no way to prevent, or to cure, asthma. Existing treatments focus on preventing or controlling disease symptoms such as wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and coughing. And each year more than half of children and one-third of adults with asthma in the U.S. miss school or work because of the disease. About 17 million people require medical attention because of an asthma episode and more than 3,000 people die of asthma.
There has been progress:
- In March 2012, NIH and other agencies published a report, Asthma Outcomes in Clinical Research, that for the first time pushes for standardization across asthma clinical studies. The report establishes common measures and data-collection methods that will let researchers compare their results more efficiently and could lead to improvements in care.
- In August 2011, NIH held a workshop to identify specific factors that may predict a person’s risk of developing asthma during the first 1,000 days of life, including environmental exposures, genetics and events that occur in pregnancy and early infancy. NIH researchers say understanding the early risk factors for asthma may provide an opportunity to prevent asthma before it begins.
- The Environmental Protection Agency has released a mobile app for iPhones and the Android platform which gives location-specific reports on current air quality and air quality forecasts for both ozone and fine particle pollution to help people with asthma plan their day.
- The American Lung Association has just launched Lungtropolis, an interactive web-based learning game funded by NIH, to help children ages 5-10 control their asthma. Kids become “Asthma Control Agents “as they fight to defeat the “MucusMob.” A recent study found that kids who played the game were better able to manage their asthma than a control group of kids who hadn't tried Lungtropolis.