This originally appeared in an email blast from Regional Asthma Management and Prevention (RAMP).
Today is World Asthma Day and May is Asthma Awareness Month. Like many of you engaged in community walks, official proclamations, Twitter chats, and webinars know, it’s a chance to educate and enlighten ourselves as well as other stakeholders, advocates, policymakers, and the public at large.
With over 25 million people across the United States who currently have asthma, we need to keep the conversation going. Real improvements in the lives of people with asthma – particularly those communities most affected by the disease – won’t happen without it.
Contributing to that conversation is one of the reasons why we here at RAMP were thrilled to write a paper for Pioneering Change: Innovative Ideas for Children and Families. Published by First Focus, a children’s advocacy organization in Washington, D.C., our paper is one of fourteen from lawmakers, children’s advocates, and policy experts outlining how to make America a better place to be a child and raise a family.
“When Asthma Management Isn’t Enough – Reducing the Burden of Childhood Asthma: From Practice to Policy” argues that childhood asthma has been prevalent for so long that we risk being lulled into complacency, even as the disease becomes an ever-increasing fixture in our homes, schools, and communities. Although the data are compelling enough, the terrifying and heartbreaking experience of a childhood asthma attack – the tight chest, the telltale wheeze as airways constrict, the look of panic on a child’s face as she struggles to breathe – carries its own special weight. It doesn’t have to be this way. Asthma can be controlled, the worst outcomes of the disease are largely preventable, and we can lower the risk for the onset of asthma in otherwise healthy children. But how do we get there? How do we better manage and prevent childhood asthma?
The answer is clear: we need to take a comprehensive, policy-focused approach that goes beyond disease management for children with asthma. In the paper we make the case that comprehensive is key, meaning we have to intervene “downstream” for things like improved self-management as well as “upstream” for things like healthy and equitable land use policies. An exclusive focus on the disease is but a start; policymakers, children’s health advocates, and funders must also tackle the risks and daily living conditions that have a profound influence on health outcomes, particularly for those children suffering the most.
Asthma may be a leading chronic condition among children in the United States, but it is a public health issue with so many solutions. Now is a key time for all of us to make a broad, long-term commitment to support asthma management and prevention. We look forward to continuing this work with you!