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Using Research to Improve Lives

Building Best Practices for Asthma Control

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) supports a broad asthma research program, spanning basic and clinical research, to genomics, proteomics, epidemiology, clinical trials and demonstration research. The NHLBI also supports research to identify the causes of asthma disparities and develop innovative programs to reduce them. Over the past few decades, groundbreaking research conducted by the NHLBI and its sister institutes at the National Institutes of Health has yielded major advances our understanding of asthma and its management. For example:

  • Basic research has revealed the central role of inflammation in asthma, the role of allergy in asthma, and the impact on asthma of indoor allergens and air pollution.
  • Clinical research has informed practice, including the use of inhaled corticosteroids in children, the comparative benefits of different asthma treatments, best practices for treating different levels of asthma severity, and understanding of variations in treatment response.
  • Implementation research has led to many advances in teaching various patient populations to learn the self-management skills necessary to control their asthma.

Transforming Research into Action

Translating research discoveries into clinical care is another important part of NHLBI’s mission. In 2007, the NHLBI’s National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (NAEPP) released the Expert Panel Report 3—Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma (EPR-3) based on a systematic review and synthesis of the latest scientific evidence. The EPR-3 recommends a range of generally accepted best-practice approaches to guide clinical decisions about asthma care. Through the NAEPP, the NHLBI works with more than 40 partners, including other federal agencies, professional societies, and voluntary organizations in the private sector, to promote adoption of the guidelines in clinical practice, and to develop programs for patients and their families that help them improve asthma control.

Yet despite advances in asthma research and practice over the past two decades, unacceptably wide variations persist in the quality of asthma care delivered by health care providers, and in the degree to which individuals with asthma follow recommended asthma self-management practices. The Institute of Medicine estimates that it takes average of 17 years to integrate new research-based knowledge into routine patient care, and asthma has proved to be no exception.

To speed up this process and close the discovery-delivery gap, the NAEPP convened a Guidelines Implementation Panel (GIP) and tasked its 17 members with developing recommendations and strategies for overcoming barriers to the acceptance and utilization of the EPR-3 guidelines. As recommended by the GIP Report , the NAEPP launched the National Asthma Control Initiative in 2008 as a multi-component effort to mobilize diverse stakeholders to put GIP strategies and messages into action for improved asthma control.

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Last Updated February 2011