Saturday, May 7, 2011

U.S. Asthma Rates Continue to Rise - Costs Rose To $56 Billion in 2007

[ The number of] people diagnosed with asthma in the United States grew by 4.3 million between 2001 and 2009, according to a new Vital Signs report released on May 3, 2011 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2009, nearly 1 in 12 Americans were diagnosed with asthma. In addition to increased diagnoses, asthma costs ... [rose] from about $53 billion in 2002 to about $56 billion in 2007, approximately a 6 percent increase. The explanation for the growth in asthma rates is unknown.

Asthma is a lifelong disease that causes wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing, though people with asthma can control symptoms and prevent asthma attacks by avoiding things that can set off an asthma attacks, and correctly using prescribed medicine, like inhaled corticosteroids. The report highlights the benefits of essential asthma education and services that reduce the impact of these triggers, but most often these benefits are not covered by health insurers.

"Despite the fact that outdoor air quality has improved, we've reduced two common asthma triggers—secondhand smoke and smoking in general—asthma is increasing," said Paul Garbe, D.V.M., M.P.H, chief of CDC's Air Pollution and Respiratory Health Branch. "While we don't know the cause of the increase, our top priority is getting people to manage their symptoms better."

Asthma triggers are usually environmental and can be found at school, work, home, outdoors, and elsewhere and can include tobacco smoke, mold, outdoor air pollution, and infections linked to influenza, cold-like symptoms, and other viruses.

Asthma diagnoses increased among all demographic groups between 2001 and 2009, though a higher percentage of children reported having asthma than adults (9.6 percent compared to 7.7 percent in 2009), Diagnoses were especially high among boys (11.3 percent). The greatest rise in asthma rates was among black children (almost a 50 percent increase) from 2001 through 2009. Seventeen percent of non-Hispanic black children had asthma in 2009, the highest rate among racial/ethnic groups.

Annual asthma costs in the United States were $3,300 per person with asthma from 2002 to 2007 in medical expenses. About 2 in 5 uninsured and 1 in 9 insured people with asthma could not afford their prescription medication.
CDC recommends:

  • Improving indoor air quality for people with asthma through measures such as smoke-free air laws and policies, healthy schools and workplaces. 
  • Teach patients how to avoid asthma triggers such as tobacco smoke, mold, pet dander, and outdoor air pollution. 
  • Encouraging clinicians to prescribe inhaled corticosteroids for all patients with persistent asthma and to use a written asthma action plan to teach patients how manage their symptoms. 
  • Promoting measures that prevent asthma attacks such as increasing access to corticosteroids and other prescribed medicines. 
  • Encourage home environmental assessments and educational sessions conducted by clinicians, health educators, and other health professionals both within and outside of the clinical setting. 
The New York Times noted that:

Nearly one in 10 children ... now has asthma....
Agency officials declined to comment on budgetary proposals that would reduce money for the National Asthma Control Program.

Prevention depends on educating patients about appropriate use of medications and ensuring that each patient has a written medical plan to control asthma, but the report found that only one-third of patients had been given a plan and only about half had been advised to make changes to eliminate asthma triggers at home, school and work.

Paul Garbe, chief of the Air Pollution and Respiratory Health Branch at the centers, noted the success of several state public health initiatives, including one in Connecticut in which asthma educators and environmental assessors were sent into homes to advise patients on what changes needed to be made and how to manage the disease.

The report found that the overall prevalence of asthma increased to 8.2 percent in 2009, when 24.6 million cases were diagnosed, from 7.3 percent in 2001, when 20.1 million cases were diagnosed — a 12.3 percent increase. Among the most affected were children, 9.6 percent of whom had asthma, and especially poor children, of whom 13.5 percent had it.

While 7.7 percent of adults were found to have asthma, the rate was higher among women (9.7 percent) and among poor adults of both sexes (10.6 percent).

.. The report said, though annual deaths attributed to asthma declined to about 3,500 in 2007, from a peak of about 5,500 deaths in 1996.

Researchers are investigating several potential causes for the increase in asthma, including exposure to various allergens, traffic exhaust fumes, pesticides and certain plastics, as well as factors like obesity and diet that may play a role, said Dr. Rachel L. Miller, director of the asthma project at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.

CDC Media Relations
Press Release dated May 3, 2011

"Asthma Rate Rises Sharply in U.S., Government Says"

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