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Special Edition, 2011

Asthma Research into Action

The National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (NAEPP): Reflecting on Progress, Charting a Course Ahead

Gary S. Rachelefsky, M.D., is restless. Too many people who have asthma get no relief, despite clear scientific and medical progress in treating the disease. So he has one question:

“What haven’t we done?”

He is speaking about the NAEPP Coordinating Committee, on which he has served for more than half of his 37 years of medical practice. As the American Academy of Pediatrics’ representative to the committee, which is coordinated by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), Dr. Rachelefsky has been a pioneer in translating research into action.

Dr. Rachelefsky speaking at an NAEPP Coordinating Committee meetingDr. Rachelefsky speaking at an NAEPP Coordinating Committee meeting

And while he’s willing to talk about the NAEPP’s past success in using science to guide clinical practice in ways that have transformed the lives of people who have asthma, what he really wants is to turn up the volume so that everyone—from patients, families, and health care providers to businesses, schools, and community groups— hears the message that asthma can be controlled. Through their ability to reach various audiences all across the country, the national organizations of the NAEPP can help generate the widespread support necessary for putting asthma guidelines into action.

So to help shape a call-to-action that would provide a road map for patients, physicians, and the public to control asthma, Dr. Rachelefsky agreed to serve on the NAEPP’s Guidelines Implementation Panel, chaired by Dr. Rachelefsky’s colleague, Kevin B. Weiss, M.D., M.P.H., President and CEO of the American Board of Medical Specialties. The panel’s 17 national experts in asthma policy, clinical practice, research, public health, and education members quickly got to work on their assigned task, but it wasn’t easy…

“It took us 12 months or more to get to 23 key messages and, from there, to six priority messages,” stated Dr. Rachelefsky, as he described his experience as a member of the NAEPP’s Guidelines Implementation Panel. The NAEPP tasked the group to identify the top science-based recommendations of the Expert Panel Report 3—Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma (EPR-3). By outlining clear and achievable strategies for putting these six priority messages into action, the NAEPP’s 2008 Guidelines Implementation Panel (GIP) Report sought to focus and coordinate the efforts of clinicians, patients and families, and other asthma stakeholders to improve asthma control.

As the name indicates, EPR-3 was not the NAEPP’s first report, although it was a watershed report in many ways.

“After EPR-1 and EPR-2, there was a change in philosophy with the EPR-3, and a new focus from simply disseminating asthma information to getting the EPR-3 guidelines recommendations used,” he added. “That’s what led the NAEPP to develop the GIP recommendations.”

It is also what led the NAEPP to develop the National Asthma Control Initiative (NACI) in 2008, to help implement those messages and discover the best practices for getting clinicians to adopt and use the GIP messages and the guidelines.

Knowledge, Empowerment, and Partnership

But waiting for others to take action is not Dr. Rachelefsky’s style. That’s why he co-founded and serves as President of the National Asthma Campaign. Its mission is to educate patients, clinicians, educators, and employers to recognize and manage asthma using various education and outreach strategies. Dr. Weiss serves as the organization’s Vice President.

Leyla McCurdy, NEEF, speaks about the NACI Strategic Partnership ProgramThe National Asthma Campaign’s Six Secrets to Quality Asthma Care video brings the NAEPP’s six priority GIP messages directly to patients and the public.

The National Asthma Campaign is also active as a NACI Strategic Partner. Through its two-year NACI project, the National Asthma Campaign is developing a series of online asthma-education modules for health care providers and for patients and their families. The modules for each group are based on the same GIP messages but tailored for each audience.

So what does Dr. Rachelefsky now advise the NAEPP?

“Start with, not end with, the guidelines recommendations to take the NAEPP to the next level,” he said. He also encouraged further opportunities for interaction among the 40 or so NAEPP member organizations, to build on the excitement generated by the recent 2011 NAEPP Coordinating Committee meeting held in Baltimore, MD.

“This will increase their commitment and involvement in working to achieve the goals set by the GIP Report,” he ventured. “Continuation of the effort is the most important thing. We must keep moving forward.”

As for his own future, Dr. Rachelefsky is continuing his efforts to educate patients, health care providers, and others on how to control asthma. In addition to his ongoing commitment to the NAEPP, Dr. Rachelefsky serves as Director of the Executive CARE Center for Asthma, Allergy, and Respiratory Diseases at the Geffen School of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and as professor of Allergy and Immunology and associate director of the Allergy-Immunology Training Program at the UCLA School of Medicine.

To learn more about the NAEPP’s history, objectives, achievements, and membership, visit the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program on the NHLBI’s Web site.

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Last Updated October, 2011

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