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CDC, partners reinforce World Asthma Day's message: Take control of asthma

ATLANTA — The number of people diagnosed with asthma in the United States grew by 4.3 million between 2001 and 2009, according to a new Vital Signs report released earlier this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2009, nearly 1-in-12 Americans were diagnosed with asthma. In addition to increased diagnoses, asthma costs grew from about $53 billion in 2002 to about $56 billion in 2007, representing a 6% increase. The explanation for the growth in asthma rates is unknown.

"Despite the fact that outdoor air quality has improved [and that] we've reduced two common asthma triggers — secondhand smoke and smoking in general — asthma is increasing," stated Paul Garbe, chief of the CDC's Air Pollution and Respiratory Health branch. "While we don't know the cause of the increase, our top priority is getting people to manage their symptoms better."

Asthma diagnoses increased among all demographic groups between 2001 and 2009, though a higher percentage of children reported having asthma than adults (9.6%, compared with 7.7% in 2009). Diagnoses especially were high among boys (11.3%). The greatest rise in asthma rates was among black children (almost a 50% increase) from 2001 through 2009. As many as 17% of non-Hispanic black children had asthma in 2009, the highest rate among racial/ethnic groups.

Annual asthma medical expenses in the United States were $3,300 per person from 2002 to 2007. About 2-in-5 uninsured and 1-in-9 insured people with asthma could not afford their prescription medication.

"Asthma is a serious, lifelong disease that unfortunately kills thousands of people each year and adds billions to our nation's healthcare costs," CDC director Thomas Frieden said. "We have to do a better job educating people about managing their symptoms and how to correctly use medicines to control asthma so they can live longer, more productive lives while saving healthcare costs."

This report coincided with World Asthma Day, an annual event sponsored by the Global Initiative for Asthma. This year's theme is "You Can Control Your Asthma." Reducing asthma attacks and the human and economic costs of asthma are key priorities for the Department of Health and Human Services, and are the focus of a collaborative effort involving many parts of HHS.

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