Plan to close asthma's racial, ethnic gap lauded

June 7, 2012

The Obama administration?s plan to close the racial and ethnic gap on childhood asthma has drawn strong support from the Merck Childhood Asthma Network.

The Obama administration’s plan to close the racial and ethnic gap on childhood asthma has drawn strong support from the Merck Childhood Asthma Network (MCAN).

The action plan is co-chaired by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“The type of inter-agency commitment and collaboration underpinning this new report is significant and unprecedented in the field of childhood asthma,” Floyd Malveaux, MD, PhD, executive director of MCAN and former dean of the College of Medicine at Howard University, said in a recent news release. “Above all, it is clear that we must not only rely on traditional healthcare services to overcome asthma disparities, but also involve efforts to improve where we live and the air we breathe.”

MCAN is funded by the Merck Company Foundation.

Nearly 26 million Americans are affected by asthma, according to the government news release on the plan. That figure includes 7 million children, especially minority children and children with family incomes below the poverty level. Asthma affects 16% of African-American children and 16.5% of Puerto Rican children, more than double the rate of Caucasian children in the United States.

“Across America we see low-income and minority children and families at a disproportionately higher risk for asthma and respiratory illnesses. Air pollution and other challenges are having serious health effects, which compound economic challenges through medical bills and missed school and work days,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said in the news release.

“As the mother of a child with asthma, I know what it means for our children to have clean and healthy air to breathe. This action plan enables federal agencies and our partners to work more collaboratively and comprehensively on tackling a major health threat,” Jackson added. 

According to the government, the action plan will coordinate efforts to improve asthma management and prevention by:

Ensuring that the populations most severely impacted by asthma receive evidence-based comprehensive care, which includes access to medical services, education, and environmental interventions.

Enhancing capacity to deliver integrated, community-based asthma care systems.   

Identifying the children, families, and communities most impacted by asthma disparities.

Increasing understanding of the cause or causes of asthma and testing interventions that may prevent the onset of asthma.