Asthma Awareness Month

Health

May is Asthma Awareness Month — a reminder that asthma is the single most common chronic condition among children in the United States. Approximately 7 million children under age 18 in the U.S. have asthma, with poor and minority children suffering a greater burden of the disease. Despite advances in diagnosis and treatment and increased attention to prevention of symptoms, the incidence of asthma prevalence in the U.S. increased from 8.7% in 2001 to 9.5% in 2011.

In order to address the serious and pervasive problem of childhood asthma in the United States, in 2012 the Merck Childhood Asthma Network (MCAN) partnered with the Department of Health Policy at the George Washington University (GWU) and First Focus to establish a new national multi-sector coalition to raise awareness and advance public policies to improve the health of children who suffer from asthma.

The Childhood Asthma Leadership Coalition (CALC) consists of leading advocates and experts in childhood asthma, public health, environmental health, poverty, housing, health care, and health care economics. Members come from a variety of professional backgrounds, including clinical researchers, medical doctors, service providers, and policy analysts. By working together through targeted federal and state efforts, the Coalition aims to accelerate prevention and improve the diagnosis, treatment, and long-term management of childhood asthma through targeted state and federal efforts.

The Coalition also works to address barriers that prevent children from accessing the health care and self-management education services they need to control and manage asthma. Some of the most effective approaches to successful asthma control for children are being provided outside of clinical settings and instead in homes, schools, and other community locations, which are intended to supplement and reinforce clinical disease treatment.

Medicaid‐eligible children are more likely to have asthma and may be most likely to benefit from community‐based interventions such as self-management education and services to reduce environmental triggers in homes and schools, yet too many children lack access to these interventions because while Medicaid can play a significant role in bringing effective community asthma programs to low‐income and medically underserved populations, Medicaid programs do not generally offer coverage for non‐traditional asthma services or traditional services provided in non‐clinical settings.

Yet there have been recent efforts underway in Massachusetts and other New England states that carry out delivery system innovations and new reimbursement models that promote community-based interventions to reduce asthma triggers in homes and community settings. CALC recently held a webinar and released a white paper, “Using Medicaid to Advance Community-Based Childhood Asthma Interventions,” highlighting these new and ongoing efforts underway in Massachusetts.

CALC member organizations have also been conducting visits to Congressional offices to ask members of Congress to communicate to Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) the need for increased Medicaid reimbursement for effective community-based interventions.

In addition to this work, the Coalition has been focused on protecting funding for priority federal programs that serve children with asthma, such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Asthma Control Program and the National Institutes of Health’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

The Environmental Protection Agency has many resources available that offer ways for us all to take action during Asthma Awareness Month to help children with asthma in our own communities, including an event planning toolkit. For additional information on the Coalition’s efforts or to get involved, visit our website at www.childhoodasthma.org.