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HHS and NHLBI Commemorate World Asthma Day 2003 "Communities Working for Life and Breath:" U.S. Theme-

For Immediate Release:
May 4, 2003

"Communities Working for Life and Breath:" U.S. Theme

May 6, 2003 marks the fifth annual World Asthma Day, when people around the world will take action to increase public awareness of the global burden of asthma and promote better asthma diagnosis and treatment. This year's theme in the U.S. is "Communities Working for Life and Breath" to emphasize that asthma affects all members of a community, not just those with the condition, and that all communities must fight this potentially life-threatening disease if progress is to be made. The international theme also highlights the "Burden of Asthma."

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is again the U.S. coordinator for World Asthma Day and maintains the official U.S. registry of World Asthma Day participating organizations at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-pro/resources/lung/naci/news/world-asthma-day.htm.

According to NHLBI Director Dr. Claude Lenfant, "Asthma is a major public health problem in the U.S. and throughout the world. World Asthma Day provides a special opportunity to reach out to people worldwide to alert them to the burden that asthma places on all of us. If we join together in fighting asthma, we can have a positive impact on its prevention, diagnosis, and management."

Asthma ranks among the most common chronic health conditions in the United States, affecting more than 20 million Americans. For more than two decades now, rates of asthma prevalence, deaths, hospitalizations, and emergency department visits have been increasing in the U.S., especially among African Americans and children. In 2000, nearly 5,000 Americans died from asthma, and African Americans were the most likely to die. In fact, the asthma death rate for African Americans was 3 times higher than that for non-Hispanic whites and 2.7 times higher than that for Hispanics. The cost of asthma is estimated at more than $12 billion annually, with direct costs exceeding $8 billion and lost earnings due to illness and death adding up to nearly $5 billion.

World Asthma Day is an international event coordinated by the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA), a project conducted in collaboration with the NHLBI. On this day, public officials, health organizations, and patient groups in countries throughout the world host special activities. In the U. S., hundreds of organizations are expected to hold asthma education and awareness activities in May. A list of U.S. organizations conducting World Asthma Day activities is available on the NHLBI Web site at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-pro/resources/lung/naci/news/world-asthma-day.htm and the GINA Web site at http://www.ginasthma.com.

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