Asthma is a complex disease that is increasing in prevalence in the United States. We still don’t know what causes this disease or how to cure it, but science shows us that asthma can be well controlled.

This slide presentation depicts the pathophysiology of the disease; prevalence, mortality, and morbidity measures at the national level; risk factors; medical management; and the public health response needed to successfully fight asthma.

The public health response to asthma has several components. The first is surveillance, which allows us to quantify how much asthma exists in the population, how severe it is, how well it is being controlled, and how much it costs. Sound data will allow us to make sound decisions when developing asthma programs.

Education is another component and can be either a part of a larger intervention or a stand-alone activity. Coalition building is a third component of the public health response, because a disease of this complexity requires the joint and committed efforts of a variety of partners. Advocacy is also required because asthma needs to be addressed in a comprehensive manner by multiple government agencies. Legislative issues include students’ access to medication at school and third-party reimbursement for patient asthma education.

Interventions are a key component and fall into the areas of medical management, environment, and schools. Finally, evaluation is needed to allow us to assess whether we are doing things right and whether we are doing the right things. A well-designed surveillance system coupled with appropriate process measures will provide sound evaluation results.

Page last reviewed: September 21, 2009