Congressional Asthma and Allergy Caucus Inaugural Briefing
by Christie Chapman
It was standing-room-only at the first Congressional Asthma and Allergy Caucus briefing on Sept. 21. Staffers representing more than 30 members of Congress filled the seats in the Natural Resources Room at the Longworth Building on Capitol Hill. When AANMA President and Founder Nancy Sander asked “How many of you have asthma or know someone with asthma?” nearly every hand flew up.
That’s not surprising when you look at the numbers. Asthma is a disease that affects all of us. It takes its toll on the lives of millions in missed school and work days. Asthma costs the U.S. more than $32 billion each year, said Paul Garbe, MD, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who spoke at the briefing.
And then there’s the heartbreaking statistic that AANMA posts whenever we can, until the day – soon, we hope – it’s no longer true: Every day 10 people die of asthma.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We have a blueprint for how people with asthma can stay healthy: the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Asthma Guidelines.
“We don’t have to go back to the drawing board,” said Kurtis Elward, MD, who treats patients at his Family Medicine of Albemarle office in Virginia, and also spoke at the briefing. The key is getting the message to patients and parents so they know what kind of care they can expect – and know how to best take care of themselves at home, work, school and play.
Medicaid patients need Guidelines-level care.
Juanita Rembert is a great-grandmother from Chicago whose family has dealt with asthma for at least six generations. Her granddaughter, Tamika, was pregnant when she died of asthma – leaving behind a two-year-old son, Jaleel. Today Jaleel is in and out of hospitals for asthma just like his mom was and Juanita is terrified that this will become a way of life — or possibly death — for him.
Tamika received Medicaid benefits but did not receive the standard of care outlined in the NIH Asthma Guidelines; she frequented the emergency department and was intubated three times yet was never referred to a specialist until just before she died. She didn’t have a written asthma action plan. Access to medications was problematic.
These aren’t luxuries – they’re critical components fundamental to asthma care, regardless of income level or insurance. They’re measures that could have saved Tamika’s life.
“One asthma death is one too many,” said Dr. Garbe. “We have the tools to fix the problem, it’s time to implement them throughout the country.”
“We know what works and what doesn’t,” continued Nancy Sander, in closing. “It’s time to fix asthma and end asthma deaths in the United States.” Looking across the audience of Congressional staffers, she added, “You have the power to ensure all health-related legislation incorporates NIH Asthma Guidelines care as standard practice. Anything less is not health care in any form.”
The Congressional Asthma and Allergy Caucus meets routinely to discuss issues impacting patients. Tell us how asthma impacts your life. Take AANMA’s Impact of Asthma Survey online today.
What you can do
Invite your elected Congressional Representatives and Senators to join the Congressional Asthma and Allergy Caucus today. Click here and follow the instructions. It’s easy and they really do want to hear from YOU regardless of whether you voted for them or not!
A Guide to the Guidelines – for Real (Busy) People
1. Order the full 326-page report or the 74-page summary. You can also download pdf copies online. They’re free — click here to order or download your copy.
2. Read it cover-to-cover if you’re so moved, or choose to supplement information from your healthcare provider. (Tip: Print it out using a color printer – some of the charts are color-coded.) The Summary Report contains vital information written for doctors, so if you don’t understand it all – that’s OK. Your healthcare provider should be able to decode anything that’s unclear to you.
3. Dog-ear these pages for easy reference:
Pages 6-7 – An easy-to-read chart of age-by-age management steps
Page 17 – Patient Self-Assessment Sheet
Pages 20-21 – Sample Asthma Action Plans – for adults and children
Page 26-27 – How to control things that make your asthma worse
Page 60 – Illustrated Steps for Using Your Inhaler
First published in Allergy & Asthma Today, Winter 2010, Volume 8, Issue 4.
Reviewed by Michael Foggs, MD, and Sandra Fusco-Walker