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Asthma Disparities Action Plan

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May 31, 2012
Washington, DC

It’s now been 30 years since asthma emerged as a growing public health threat. Since then, we’ve made progress through clinical, environmental and community health interventions. The result is that even as the prevalence of asthma continues to rise, overall hospitalization and mortality rates have declined. Today, a growing number of adults and children have the tools to control their asthma. 

We’re here today because that progress, unfortunately, has not reached everyone. Minority children today are both more likely to have asthma and less likely to be prescribed or take recommended treatments to control their asthma.  And this has huge consequences for everything from their health to their education.

This shouldn’t happen in America.  And over the last three years, we’ve worked to close these disparities.

One factor we know is critical to controlling a child’s asthma is having health insurance. Without health coverage, you’re less likely to get the preventive medicine you need to keep the condition under control, making you more likely to suffer an attack.

That’s why we’re working to expand access to health insurance. One of the President’s first acts after taking office was signing the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act -- a big reason why, despite a tough economy, more children have health insurance today than ever before in American history.

A year later, he signed the Affordable Care Act, which has ensured that no child will ever again be denied health insurance because they have asthma or any other health condition.

Under the health care law, we’re also supporting providers who find innovative ways to improve patient care.

For example, we recently awarded a grant to support the New England Asthma Innovations Collaborative, which is training community health workers and asthma educators to provide wrap-around care to children with asthma in clinics and at their homes. By keeping them healthy and reducing preventable emergency room visits, officials estimate the project will save $4.1 million over 3 years. 

But as Secretary Donovan and Administrator Jackson have said, more action is needed.

And when it comes to a chronic disease like asthma, we know what works best is an all-of-the-above approach.

After all, you can get great care for asthma at your doctor’s office, but it won’t do much good if they don’t know how to treat it at your school. And you can have a great community health center down the street, but it will be hard to stay healthy if the air in your neighborhood is polluted.

If we’re going to reduce these disparities, we have to work together, not just across the federal government, but with state and local partners, and community and private leaders on every front.

That’s what this Action Plan is about. And we’ve already seen its potential.

For example, as we began our work on this Action Plan, officials from our Administration for Children and Families recognized that they had a unique opportunity to reach kids with asthma through the Head Start and Child Care programs that they oversee around the country.

So they began working with EPA and CDC officials to develop an Asthma Resource Starter Kit that provides tools to train Early Child Care staff on asthma triggers and prevention strategies. The same Starter Kit also includes activities for young children and resources for parents to identify potential triggers in their homes. Now, everyone will be working from the same, proven playbook.

And this Action Plan allows us take the same comprehensive, coordinated approach to all of our asthma education, prevention and care efforts.

We have a lot more work to do. But today, we’re taking action, together.