PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
May 9, 2012

Mary E. O'Dowd, M.P.H.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

May is National Asthma Awareness Month

May is National Asthma Awareness Month and the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) recommends that residents learn more about the health impacts of asthma, its environmental triggers and how people can learn to better manage the disease.

"Asthma is a chronic disease that affects approximately 179,000 children and 579,000 adults in New Jersey," said Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd.  "Although there is no cure for asthma, the disease is manageable if those affected work with their health care providers to take precautions and learn the symptoms and triggers of asthma." 

There were more than 15,000 asthma hospitalizations in New Jersey in 2010 and approximately 52,000 visits to the emergency rooms as a result of asthma.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 3,440 people in the U. S. died as a result of asthma in 2007.  The U. S. spends more than $30 billion annually in direct expenditures treating the disease.

Asthma is characterized by ongoing wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and coughing. It can be triggered by environmental factors such as dust, tobacco smoke, automobile emissions, pet dander and mold. Non-environmental factors such cold or flu, strenuous exercise, and allergies can also be contributing factors.  Once triggered, the pathways that carry air to the lungs become restricted and mucus production is increased. As a result, breathing becomes more difficult leading to the onset of coughing and shortness of breath.

Asthma attacks - a more severe form of the disease - can be life threatening and require immediate treatment by a medical professional.

Asthma attacks are preventable and DHSS recommends that anyone who suffers from asthma have an Asthma Treatment Plan (ATP) completed by their health care provider.  An ATP can help prevent attacks because it helps people with asthma or their caregivers manage the disease before the onset of symptoms.  A free ATP is available at www.pacnj.org.

Asthma is especially prevalent in New Jersey's minority populations.  In 2009, the asthma rate for black residents was about 3 times the rate for white residents.  During that same year, blacks visited the emergency department for the treatment of asthma at a rate 4.7 times that of whites.  Hispanics have an overall asthma rate 1.2 times that of non-Hispanic residents.

"Minorities experience asthma at far greater rates then whites in New Jersey, the Department is working with our community partners to improve these health outcomes," said Dr. Arturo Brito, Deputy Commissioner of Public Health Services.

The Henry J. Austin Health Center in Trenton and the Hispanic Center of Southern New Jersey in Camden each received $100,000 last year in Community Health Mobilization Grants from the Department's Office of Minority and Multicultural Health to reduce pediatric asthma emergency department visits and related school absences. You can learn more about these grants by visiting: http://www.state.nj.us/cgi-bin/dhss/njnewsline/view_article.pl?id=3792

The Department also provided $120,000 to the Pediatric/Adult Asthma Coalition of New Jersey (PACNJ) last year.  PACNJ is a statewide coalition that develops educational programs and tools to assist health care providers and people with asthma self-manage their symptoms. 

For more information on Asthma in New Jersey please visit:  http://www.state.nj.us/health/fhs/asthma/index.shtml

For national information on Asthma, please visit the CDC asthma homepage: http://www.cdc.gov/asthma/asthma_awareness_month.htm