May 1, 2012
Statement of Susan B. Shurin, M.D., Acting Director, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute;
Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases;
Linda S. Birnbaum, Ph.D., D.A.B.T., A.T.S., Director, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences;
Alan E. Guttmacher, M.D., Director, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
On World Asthma Day 2012, we at the National Institutes of Health stand together with the international community to renew our dedication to improving quality of life for the millions of people living with asthma.
Asthma is a significant public health burden that affects over 230 million people worldwide, including more than 25 million in the United States. Currently, there is no way to prevent or cure asthma. Existing treatments focus on controlling disease symptoms, which include wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing. Despite advances in therapy, more than half of children and one-third of adults with asthma in the United States miss school or work because of attacks.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI); the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID); the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS); and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) are the lead NIH institutes supporting basic and clinical research to understand the causes of asthma and the factors that contribute to its progression. Each of our institutes supports different aspects of asthma research, but we all work together to inform the development of effective strategies for the prevention and treatment of asthma.
In March 2012, NHLBI, NIAID, NIEHS, and NICHD, in conjunction with the Merck Childhood Asthma Network, Inc. and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, published a report that for the first time promotes standardization across asthma clinical studies. The Asthma Outcomes in Clinical Research: Report of the Asthma Outcomes Workshop, establishes common measures and data-collection methods to enable researchers to compare their results. This standardization promises to enhance asthma clinical research and perhaps even lead to improvements in the quality of asthma care.
Last year, in August 2011, the NIH held a workshop on “The Early Life Origins of Asthma: Strategies for Primary Prevention.” Because asthma typically begins early in childhood, the goal of the workshop was to identify factors, such as environmental exposures, genetics, or events that occur in pregnancy and early infancy, that may predict a person’s risk for developing asthma. Participants also worked to identify the most promising interventions for future research.
NHLBI, NHLBI, NIEHS, and NICHD remain committed to working with individuals, families, and healthcare professionals to reduce the worldwide burden of asthma. We commend the NIH-supported investigators who continue to make significant progress in asthma research, and we express our gratitude to the people who have participated in NIH-sponsored asthma research studies, as well as to the nongovernmental organizations that provide support for those affected by asthma.
The NHLBI supports both a broad asthma research portfolio--including studies on risk factors, mechanisms that influence disease severity, and identifying new therapies--and the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program that is dedicated to translating research into improved clinical practice and quality of life for asthma patients. As the lead allergy and immunology institute at NIH, NIAID supports researchers who are unraveling the role of the immune system in the development of asthma, and evaluating new approaches to treatment and prevention of the disease. NIEHS, the institute focused on the impact of environmental factors on human health, supports research to understand how exposures to environmental agents trigger asthma, and how we can better prevent, diagnose and treat such exposures. NICHD conducts and supports research on all stages of human development, including research directed to those early life stages when chronic diseases such as asthma might be prevented.
Susan B. Shurin, M.D., is Acting Director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.
Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., is Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.
Linda S. Birnbaum, Ph.D., D.A.B.T., A.T.S., is Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at the National Institutes of Health in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.
Alan E. Guttmacher, M.D., is Director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.
NHLBI Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-pro/guidelines/current/asthma-guidelines/
NHLBI National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (NAEPP): http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/about/org/naepp/