News Release

PO 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
Christine Grant
Acting Commissioner
For Release:
May 10, 1999
For Further Information Contact:
Rita Manno
(609) 984-7160
Dennis McGowan
(609) 984-7160
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Effort to Raise Asthma Awareness;
State's First Asthma Resource Directory on the Web

TRENTON -- Specially-trained volunteer health promoters will begin meeting with community groups in three New Jersey cities this week to raise awareness of asthma prevalence and treatment among minority populations. The health promoters plan to give more than 150 presentations during May and June in Newark, New Brunswick and Trenton.

The presentations are part of a demonstration project funded by a $30,000 grant from the federal Office of Minority Health with in-kind support from the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services' Office of Minority Health. Lecture attendees will receive a copy of the state's first asthma resource directory -- a guide to services in the three cities, as well as contacts for state and national advocacy organizations.

"In these three cities, nearly 3,000 individuals are hospitalized each year due to asthma," said Acting Health and Senior Services Commissioner Christine Grant. "The education and treatment regimen discussed in these sessions will help prevent unnecessary suffering and hospitalizations."

Asthma is a chronic and serious lung condition that makes breathing difficult. Asthmatic triggers, such as cigarette smoke, pollen or dust, cause a person's airways to become irritable or narrow and lungs to become inflamed or swollen and sensitive. There is no cure for asthma. However both long-term control and quick relief medications are available and effective.

"While this disease effects people of all races and ethnic groups, minorities suffer disproportionally," said Linda Holmes, director of the state Office of Minority Health. Asthma was the primary diagnosis for 13% of African-American and 7% of Hispanic children (1-14 years old) hospitalized in New Jersey in 1997. Nationally, although African-Americans represent about 13% of the population, they represent 22% of deaths due to asthma.

"This training will give basic and up-to-date information on asthma at the community level by members of those communities who have volunteered their time and knowledge to this important project," said Holmes.

In total, 21 local volunteers will provide the trainings. During each session, they will define asthma and describe the warning signs of an asthma attack, help participants understand the role of medications and the importance of sticking to a treatment plan, and discuss patient fears and misconceptions about the disease and its medications.

The training program was designed by the department's Minority Health Network on Asthma, which began meeting last December. The network is comprised of faith-based and other community leaders, health care providers, patient advocates and representatives of national organizations concerned about asthma among minority populations. The network is currently evaluating the educational, health care and support needs of persons with asthma and will make recommendations to the department this summer on strengthening the asthma services delivery system in New Jersey.

Community groups in Newark, New Brunswick and Trenton wishing to schedule a presentation on asthma can call the New Jersey Office of Minority Health at 609-292-6962.

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Fact Sheet (PDF 12k) and Minority Health Network on Asthma membership list attached.

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