May Is Asthma Awareness Month

Asthma takes an enormous toll on Kentucky in terms of disability, diminished quality of life, lost work productivity and health care costs.

Throughout May, the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) will be raising awareness of the impact of the disease on the Commonwealth and conducting outreach through the Kentucky Asthma Partnership to health care providers and schools to help children and adults living with asthma.

“Asthma Awareness Month gives us an opportunity to educate the public about the impact of asthma on Kentucky,” said DPH Commissioner Stephanie Mayfield, M.D. “While there is no cure for asthma, the burden of the disease can be lessened with proper management. With the right tools and resources, the numbers of missed school days and work days, emergency room visits and hospitalizations can be greatly reduced.”

In Kentucky, one out of every 10 school-aged children and one out of every 11 adults has asthma. According to the 2012 Kentucky Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, an estimated 369,700 Kentucky adults and 104,000 children have asthma. Compared to other states, Kentucky has one of the highest rates of asthma in the United States.

Each year nearly 6,000 asthma-related hospitalizations and nearly 20,000 emergency room visits with asthma as a primary diagnosis occur in Kentucky, according to the Kentucky Office of Health Policy. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that asthma costs Kentucky $399 million each year in direct medical costs and $46 million in indirect costs due mainly to work absenteeism.

Asthma is also one of the most common childhood chronic diseases and a leading cause of school absenteeism. Children with asthma miss an average of four school days each year. Some children in Kentucky miss many more days, resulting in an estimated annual loss of $10 million to school districts.

During Asthma Awareness month, DPH will be working with the Kentucky Asthma Partnership to remind health care providers, schools and communities to help adults and children with asthma develop an asthma action plan.

Educational tools will be made available, including Creating Asthma Friendly Schools, the EPR-3 Asthma guidelines and Asthma 1-2-3 Training. In addition, the American Lung Association of the Midland States will be sponsoring the Fight For Air Walk June 7 at Iroquois Park in Louisville, the allergy capital of the United States, according to an annual study by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

DPH will also work throughout the month on asset mapping for Kentucky, which will be an assessment to determine what asthma resources and services are available in Kentucky and where they are located.

One of the most important messages of asthma awareness, according to DPH staff, is knowing what to do when a severe asthma attack occurs.

“An asthma action plan helps patients identify when asthma is out of control and what steps need to be taken to respond to asthma attacks,” said Pam Spradling, manager of the Kentucky Asthma Program.

“Parents and caregivers can help schools identify children with asthma, make sure medications are available to the child and that an asthma action plan is on file,” said Spradling. “Schools and workplaces can help reduce the risk of exposure to indoor asthma triggers year round by improving air quality and reducing exposure to second hand smoke.”

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear has made improving the health and wellness of Kentucky’s children, families and workforce one of his highest priorities. To significantly advance the wellbeing of Kentucky’s citizens, Gov. Beshear launched kyhealthnow in February as an aggressive and wide-ranging initiative to reduce incidents and deaths from Kentucky’s dismal health rankings and habits. It builds on Kentucky’s successful implementation of health care reform and uses multiple strategies over the next several years to improve the state’s collective health.

Management of asthma – as well as the many other chronic diseases plaguing Kentucky – is vital to the success of kyhealthnow because of the impact on quality of life.

“In Kentucky, improving the way we recognize, treat and manage asthma is so important,” said Julia Richerson, M.D., pediatrician and chair of the Kentucky Asthma Partnership. “Asthma impacts the quality of life of so many Kentuckians, limiting their ability to fully live their lives because they cannot breathe well.”

For more information about asthma, log on to the Kentucky Department for Public Health, Kentucky Asthma Program’s website at; or the CDC National Asthma Control Program’s website at


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