American Thoracic Society Addresses Issues in Asthma Awareness


During World Asthma Day on May 7, advocacy groups for asthma awareness addressed the need for better worldwide education.

Asthma affects over 260 million people worldwide and is one of the most common non-communicable diseases.1 On World Asthma Day 2024, key advocacy groups gathered to announce to the public just how important education is to saving lives affected by asthma all around the world.

Along with the American Thoracic Society (ATS) and the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS)—of which the ATS is a member—the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) is also a major entity in asthma awareness. Founded in 1993 by WHO, GINA is also adamant about asthma awareness and the importance of educating and supplying underserved communities with as many resources as possible.2

“FIRS urges health care professionals to enhance their awareness of the preventable morbidity and mortality from asthma and of the published evidence on effective asthma management, so they are equipped to provide reliable information and optimal treatment for their patients,” wrote the ATS in a news release.1

Key Takeaways

  • Advocacy groups for asthma awareness addressed the need for better worldwide education on the topic, which is one of the most prevalent non-communicable diseases in the world.
  • Along with these advocacy groups, researchers addressed asthma initiatives for educating the public on such a common disease.
  • These initiatives are all celebrated in May as part of Asthma Awareness Month.

Among the 260 million individuals living with asthma, there are 450,000 asthma-related deaths every year. Most of these deaths are preventable, which is why these groups feel that current education on the topic is lacking.1

According to the ATS, there are 4 key areas where asthma education is most important and needs to be refined for better worldwide communication. Those areas are: under- or inaccurate diagnosis, underuse of anti-inflammatory inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) inhalers, overuse and over-reliance on short-acting beta2-agonist (SABA) inhalers, and poor recognition of patients requiring specialist assessment and further management.1

During World Asthma Day on May 7, advocacy groups for asthma awareness addressed the need for better worldwide education. | image credit: index74 /

During World Asthma Day on May 7, advocacy groups for asthma awareness addressed the need for better worldwide education. | image credit: index74 /

To further add to literature that supports asthma education, health care experts representing GINA published their recommendations covering 4 key concepts in primary care asthma management: diagnosis, long-term treatment, assessment of control, and management of severe asthma.

Regarding asthma diagnosis, asthma over-diagnosis also seems to be an issue that clinicians are struggling to address because of how common the disease is worldwide.

READ MORE: Biologic Therapies Improve Clinical Outcomes in Patients With Severe Asthma

“Over- and under-diagnosis of asthma are common and are usually due to the lack of objective lung function testing which can demonstrate variable expiratory airflow limitation that will support the diagnosis of asthma and help to exclude other causes,” wrote Levy et al.2

Diagnosing asthma for children also seems to be an issue given that wheezing is a common occurrence in children under 5 with or without asthma. It’s also important, the authors noted, for clinicians to understand the difference between asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).2

“The history and pattern of symptoms and past records can help to distinguish asthma with persistent airflow limitation from COPD. Asthma and COPD may co-exist in the same patient, particularly in smokers and the elderly,” they wrote.2

For long-term treatment of asthma, ICS treatment is the gold standard in managing symptoms and controlling flare-ups. However, GINA recognizes that asthma treatment is not “one size fits all.”

“Because asthma is a chronic condition prone to flare-ups, GINA emphasizes that patients need regular review, assessment, and adjustment. This involves assessment of asthma control, individual risk factors and comorbidities, with review and optimization of treatment, including careful attention to adherence and inhaler technique, and provision of individualized self-management education including a written/pictorial action plan,” they continued.2

Furthermore, GINA presented several situations of severe asthma and how it can be identified and managed. Several example situations of severe asthma, as presented by GINA, may require specialist opinions or treatments.

And finally, GINA touched on the assessment of asthma control in 2 key domains: symptoms and risk factors. Focusing on symptom control and risk factors for future poor asthma outcomes, researchers encourage clinicians not to treat asthma as an acute illness.2 Despite individuals believing they might have their symptoms controlled with minimal flare-ups, they are still recommended to closely monitor symptoms and regularly follow up with their primary care providers.

Every May, the groups previously mentioned, along with the CDC, recognize Asthma Awareness Month. Helping clinicians and patients learn more about this common disease is key to advancing treatment and preventing death.

“On World Asthma Day and throughout May, people with asthma and organizations dedicated to asthma control and education join together to increase awareness about asthma and improve the lives of all people with asthma,” wrote the CDC.3

READ MORE: Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month: Resources Roundup

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1. Asthma education is key to reducing deaths worldwide, say respiratory health associations. American Thoracic Society. May 7, 2024. Accessed May 9, 2024.
2. Levy ML, Bacharier LB, Bateman E, et al. Key recommendations for primary care from the 2022 Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) update. NPJ Prim Care Respir Med. 2023;33(1):7. doi:10.1038/s41533-023-00330-1
3. World Asthma Day - asthma awareness toolkit. CDC. May 2, 2022. Accessed May 9, 2024.
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