NIH News Release
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Friday, December 11, 1998

Ellen Sommer, NHLBI, tel: (301) 496-4236
Sarah Cox, AAAAI, tel: (414) 272-6071
Sydney Parker, ACCP, tel: (847) 498-1400
Lori Atkins, ATS , tel: (212) 315-6442

Global Plan Launched To Cut Childhood Asthma Deaths by 50%
Four US Organizations Part of Key Consortium: National Heart Lung Blood Institute, American Academy
of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, American College of Chest Physicians and the American Thoracic Society

In Barcelona, Spain today at the World Asthma Meeting, international experts in asthma management called for global action to reduce childhood asthma deaths by 50%. The five-year effort, announced on the eve of the first ever World Asthma Day (December 11), aims to significantly reduce the mortality and morbidity associated with this disease. World Asthma Day is coordinated by GINA (Global Initiative for Asthma - established by the World Health Organization, and the NHLBI or US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health) and the European Respiratory Society. In addition to the NHLBI, official supporting organizations of World Asthma Day from the US are the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) and the American Thoracic Society (ATS). Other international supporting organizations include the European Academy of Allergology and Clinical Immunology (EAACI) and the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (IUATLD).

Asthma is a chronic condition characterized by a narrowing of the bronchial tubes, swelling of the bronchial tube lining, and mucus secretion that can block the airway, making breathing difficult. The prevalence of asthma can be as high as 30 percent among certain populations, and internationally, cases have more than tripled in the last ten years. In the U.S. between 1990 and 1994, the number of people reported to suffer from asthma increased from 10.4 million to 14.6 million with approximately 5.0 million of them children.

The theme of the inaugural World Asthma Day is Help Our Children Breathe. Globally, asthma is reported to be the single most common chronic disease causing absence from school, and 35% of children with asthma experience significant pain or discomfort as a result.

The Agenda for Action, announced today by Professor Romain Pauwels, chairman of GINA, calls for parents, physicians, public authorities and national organizations to work together to address childhood asthma and the following specified international targets by the year 2005:

The NHLBI's National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (NAEPP) is the lead agency for US activities related to World Asthma Day. In recognition of World Asthma Day, the NAEPP is launching a new website ( that provides a science-based decision-making tool, as well as an educational and communications resource, for health care professionals, researchers, public health planners, and others concerned about asthma.

The AAAAI web site provides an update on its national Pediatric Asthma: Promoting Best Practice initiative ( Information about asthma and other pulmonary diseases, as well as a link to the Chicago Asthma Consortium, is available on the ACCP website at

In the US, many grassroots organizations dedicated to the support of asthma patients and their families will be hosting activities in commemoration of World Asthma Day. For information about local groups and activities, please call Lori Atkins at the ATS, or Abby Nash at the American Lung Association, (212) 315-6622.

Asthma Statistics

Global Figures:

Asthma in the United States:

0-4 years old 1,280,000
5-14 2,790,000
15-34 4,050,000
35-64 4,090,000
>65 770,000

The NHLBI is a part of the National Institutes of Health, and agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Its major mission is to foster research investigations, train research scientists, and translate research results to impact on public health.

The AAAAI is the largest professional medical specialty organization in the United States, representing allergists, medical specialists, clinical immunologists, allied health professionals and others with a special interest in the research and treatment of allergic disease.

The ACCP is the leading resource for the improvement of cardiopulmonary health and critical care worldwide. Its 15,000 members encompass all the disciplines of chest medicine, including pulmonology, cardiology, thoracic surgery, asthma, immunology, critical care and pediatrics.

The ATS is an international professional and scientific society focusing on respiratory and critical care medicine. The Society has 12,500 members who help prevent and fight respiratory disease through research, education, patient care and advocacy. The American Thoracic Society also serves as the medical section of the American Lung Association, a voluntary health agency devoted to preventing lung disease and promoting lung health.

NOTE: B-roll with animation of the airways constriction that occurs in asthma and footage of people from around the world undergoing examinations for asthma, taking asthma medications and other situations related to asthma is available from the NHLBI.