How the CHEST Foundation is Addressing the Needs of Severe Asthma Patients

By: Dr. Nick Hanania, CHEST Foundation

The statistics are staggering around uncontrolled and severe asthma:

  • 1 in 12 adults and 1 in 11 children in the U.S. has asthma (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
  • Asthma contributes to 10.5 million missed school days each year and 14.2 workdays lost per adult each year, and costs the United States an estimated $60 billion each year. (Source: Respiratory Health Association of Chicago)
  • Each day, 11 Americans die from asthma, amounting to more than 4,000 deaths each year, many of which are avoidable with proper treatment and care. In addition, asthma is indicated as a “contributing factor” for nearly 7,000 other deaths each year. (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
  • Among children 5 to 17 years of age, asthma accounts for more hospitalizations than any other childhood disease. It is estimated that children with asthma cumulatively spend nearly 8 million days per year restricted to bed. (Source: “The Costs of Asthma,” Asthma and Allergy Foundation)
  • Up to 10% of asthma patients have severe asthma which may be uncontrolled.

Uncontrolled asthma is often caused by non-compliance to medications or failure to avoid triggers that make asthma worse. However, around 10-20% of uncontrolled asthma patients have severe asthma and will require significantly more medications and care than those with a typical form of the disease.

So, what can be done? Patients with severe asthma require close medical attention and care, and must have their individual case and disease assessed properly. Many of them aren’t appropriately diagnosed with severe asthma and thus are undertreated, which can lead to serious health complications, impact quality of life, and may lead to death. 

We can raise awareness among patients—illustrating what it means to have their asthma well controlled, define what it means when asthma isn’t well controlled or could be severe, and give patients, caregivers, and clinicians tools to facilitate productive conversations. And, finally, we can provide patients with accurate, evidence-based materials that are easy to understand and are accessible.

Collaborations between patient groups, professional medical societies, charitable foundations and key stakeholders, like AstraZeneca, can move the needle. This May, The CHEST Foundation (the foundation of the American College of Chest Physicians), the Allergy & Asthma Network, and several others, including AstraZeneca, are partnering on the Asthma: Take Action. Take Control campaign. Last year, the campaign rolled out the asthma control assessment, a 25-page patient education guide, a medication and device guide, and materials for bridging the gap between patients, caregivers and clinicians. Moving into year two of the campaign, critical new tools are being developed to help patients understand the severity of their disease, make informed decisions and continue the work of providing a platform for a unified voice and collaboration.

Nicola (Nic) A. Hanania, MD, MBBS, FCCP is Associate Professor of Medicine in the Section of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine. As a Fellow of the American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP), Dr. Hanania has served on the Board of Regents and as Chair of the ACCP's Clinical Pulmonary, Airways Networks and Council of Networks. He has been a member of Board of Trustees of the CHEST Foundation since 2012.