NIH News Advisory
National Library of Medicine

Wednesday, March 17, 1999

Contact: Robert Mehnert
Kathleen Cravedi
(301) 496-6308

"Breath of Life" Exhibition Coming to National Institutes of Health
Olympians Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Nancy Hogshead, Sesame Street Characters
Help Four NIH Institutes Launch Unique Interactive In-Depth Look at Asthma

(Bethesda, MD.)— A unique interactive exhibition highlighting the experiences of people with asthma and efforts to understand and control the disease will open Monday, March 22, with a press briefing from 5:30 to 6:15 p.m. followed by a reception from 6:15 to 7:30 p.m. in the Rotunda of the National Library of Medicine (NLM), 8600 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD. Press interested in a tour of the exhibit before the opening press briefing or obtaining photographs of exhibit images may contact the NLM Office of Communications and Public Liaison at (301)496-6308 or email:

"We are quite excited about this exhibition, which is our most ambitious ever," noted Donald A.B. Lindberg, M.D., Director of the National Library of Medicine. "The exhibit, developed by the Library in collaboration with the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, will travel to cities in the United States and Europe following its debut in Bethesda. The message is simple: Asthma is the leading cause of chronic illness among youth up to 17 in the United States. It is a massive problem that can be prevented or managed through education."

Special guests at the opening will include Olympic gold medallist in track and field Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and Olympic gold medallist in swimming Nancy Hogshead, both of whom have asthma. Popular "Sesame Street" characters Rosita and Luis, along with Dani, a special new Muppet with asthma will perform part of a new bilingual multimedia childhood asthma educational campaign "A Is For Asthma," at the opening. Residents and their families from The Children's Inn at NIH will preview the opening program and exhibit.

Claude Lenfant, M.D., Director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and Chairman of the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (NAEPP), said, "Asthma is indeed a major public health problem, and on this date, as we celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program, we underscore the importance of professional, patient, and public education to improving the lives of asthma patients and their families and reducing the burden of the disease. For the past 10 years, the NAEPP has spearheaded efforts-both national and community-based-to move asthma onto the public agenda. This exhibit expands upon these efforts by putting a face on this condition and bringing it to people throughout the country."

Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, concurred. "The NIH is dedicated to improving public awareness of asthma, and 'Breath of Life' is an excellent tool for educating people about this disease. This exhibition will help inform people of all ages that asthma is common and treatable, and that research is leading to important new insights into asthma and its prevention and treatment."

National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Director Kenneth Olden, Ph.D., added, "Pets and pollen and tiny insects are some of the things in the environment that can trigger dangerous asthma attacks. We see this interactive exhibit as a way to show what we're doing to study and control these triggers-and as a way to show patients and their families what they can do to prevent or reduce these frightening occurrences."

About "Breath of Life"

Because asthma is so widespread in this country, cutting across age, race, region and income levels, a significant component of "Breath of Life" is a section called "Faces of Asthma," about the people who have had or currently have asthma. Despite a sometimes long and painful struggle with asthma, many individuals have achieved the highest recognition in their fields. This exhibition will celebrate their accomplishments by including biographical snapshots of these noteworthy people, both historical and contemporary. The list of famous people includes Charles Dickens, Ludwig Von Beethoven, Leonard Bernstein, Steve Allen, Helen Hayes, Bob Hope, John F. Kennedy, Liza Minnelli, Theodore Roosevelt, Elizabeth Taylor, Art Monk, and many others.

Throughout the exhibit are numerous interactive elements that offer engaging experiences for visitors of all ages. Among these are Faces of Asthma, an interactive video featuring Americans who share their thoughts on the impact asthma has had on their lifestyles, accomplishments, and goals for the future. The Immune Response in Asthma is a narrated animation that offers a unique perspective on the cellular basis for symptoms of asthma. Winning With Asthma is a dynamic interactive soccer game for young people. A popular electronic game is the basis of this experience, which highlights facts regarding exercise-induced asthma.

A Is For Asthma, as noted earlier, is an interactive, bilingual video that helps children learn more about asthma as the Muppets sing, dance, and talk about asthmatic Muppet Dani's needs. Youngsters also find out how to help when someone has trouble breathing. The video was produced by the Children's Television Workshop, with technical assistance from the American Lung Association, and made possible by support from the Prudential Foundation. According to Workshop Vice President of Community Education Services, Digna Sanchez, "Our A Is for Asthma project has enabled childcare providers to more effectively meet the needs of asthmatic preschoolers. As a result, it has been enthusiastically received by both the child care community, the parents of asthmatic children, and, of course, the children. Spanish speaking parents are especially thankful for these bilingual materials."

Other sections of the exhibition will provide answers to some of the perplexing questions about asthma such as: With the rich knowledge scientists have developed about the disease, why are more and more people getting asthma? In addition, "Breath of Life" will help to educate visitors about current efforts by physicians and patients to manage asthma.

"Breath of Life" opens to the general public on March 23, 1999. The NLM is open to the public Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., with late hours Thursdays (till 9:00 p.m.), and Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The exhibit will run through June 2000.