Step in the right direction for asthma funding

Good news! Last week, the Senate Committee on Appropriations voted to support several key federal efforts to reduce the burden of asthma.

First, the Committee voted to keep the National Asthma Control Program (NACP) as a distinct, stand-alone program fully funded at $25.3 million for Fiscal Year 2013. Second, the Committee allocated $10 million for the Healthy Homes/Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. Third, the Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health Across the U.S. (REACH) was funded at $63.9 million.

Funding for these programs represents a needed victory in the struggle to help those suffering from asthma. President Obama’s budget had proposed to merge the Asthma Program and the Healthy Homes/Lead Poisoning Prevention Program while reducing the combined funding for both. The NACP teaches families how to manage asthma and prevent asthma attacks; it helps local officials understand where people with asthma live so they can address their needs; and it enables schools to know how to help kids with asthma. The Healthy Homes Program, in turn, helps reduce hazards such as asthma triggers and lead.

Similarly, the President budget zeroed out funding for the REACH program, the federal government’s cornerstone program for reducing health disparities, including asthma (RAMP is a current REACH grantee). REACH has a proven track record of effective, community-based efforts, and its continuation means that those communities with the greatest needs will benefit from a national investment in prevention and the reduction of health disparities.

We need all of these programs given the tremendous impacts of asthma on communities across the nation. More than 25 million people — including more than 7 million children — are living with asthma in the U.S. Close to half of everyone with asthma — 11 million people had an asthma attack in 2010, many of which could have been prevented. The number of people diagnosed with asthma grew by 4.3 million from 2001 to 2009, and asthma was linked to about 3,500 deaths (roughly 9 a day) in 2007. Asthma also strikes some communities inequitably. For example, 16% of African-American children have been diagnosed with asthma, compared to 8.2% of white children.

The Senate Appropriations Committee vote was but one step in a long process that likely won’t conclude until the Fall. Still, it’s a vote for asthma and health equity that we can all savor now.

Thank you to those of you who responded to our previous policy action alert and reached out to your congressional representatives! Your voice made a difference.

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