Star Shines Despite Asthma

(May 2, 2011)

AnikaSinger, actress and Tony Award winner Anika Noni Rose doesn’t let anything slow her down – especially not asthma. The star of such Broadway shows as Caroline, or Change and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and hit films like Dreamgirls and Disney’s The Princess and the Frog and most recently CBS’s The Good Wife, has joined the American Lung Association to share her story and speak out for those with asthma.

Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases among children, affecting some seven million kids in America. But it can also strike adults. Anika was one of them, and she remembers it well.

Anika’s Story

"It was my last year in grad school. I couldn’t stop coughing, and couldn’t clear my chest. I had several courses of antibiotics, but to no avail,” Anika explained. “I had a performance where I sang a song that I’d been singing for some time and was completely off pitch, losing my breath and embarrassed. By the end of the night I had no voice left.

I went back to the doctor and was shocked when he told me that I ‘may have asthma.’ A second opinion and an allergy test confirmed that I had asthma, and was allergic to cats, dust mites and some types of trees,” she said.

Anika still had doubts. She thought asthma only happened to children, and had always lived around cats without any allergic reaction. But the reality of her condition soon hit home, in a very personal way.

“I didn’t believe the doctor. Then one day I was sitting in my living room and I kept hearing this high-pitched whistle – one of those background noises that can drive you batty! I went around the house checking the stove, the heater and even turned off the TV. I finally realized it was me. It was my chest whistling! That was the beginning of my journey with asthma, which attacks the very thing that makes my living – my voice, my air.”

World Asthma Day and Asthma Awareness Month

With the proper medical support and medications, Anika has since learned to control her asthma, and live an active and demanding life. And that’s the theme of this year’s World Asthma Day, May 3: "You Can Control Your Asthma." May is also Asthma Awareness Month.

Asthma remains a significant public health problem in the United States. It is estimated that almost 25 million Americans currently have asthma, including 7.1 million children.

Asthma is the third leading cause of hospitalization among children under the age of 15 and is a leading cause of school absences from chronic disease – accounting for over 10 million lost school days each year. More tragically, asthma claims the lives of more than 3,000 Americans a year, approximately nine people per day.

You can learn much more about asthma, from the American Lung Association here.

The American Lung Association and Asthma

The Lung Association has been educating children about asthma for almost 20 years. We reach tens of thousands of children each year with our Open Airways For Schools, a program that teaches children how to manage their asthma. In 2007, Lung Association launched Breathe Well, Live Well: An Asthma Management Program for Adults nationwide. Learn more about our many programs and tools to help people with asthma thrive.

We also sponsor the American Lung Association Asthma Clinical Research Centers (ACRC) Network, the nation’s largest not-for-profit network of clinical research centers dedicated to asthma treatment.

Support Asthma Funding

With asthma’s huge impact on American families, you would think funding asthma programs would be a top priority. But sadly, that’s not the case. Federal funding for asthma is in danger of being cut essentially in half! President Obama’s proposed budget for 2012 would merge the National Asthma Control Program with the Healthy Homes/Lead Poisoning Prevention Program – and recommends cuts to their combined budgets by over 50 percent.

If Congress approves this proposal, it would drastically reduce states’ ability to respond to this disease, significantly set back progress made in managing the disease, and eliminate at least half of the school-based asthma programs.

You can help protect these critical programs for the millions of Americans with asthma – whether it’s a star like Anika, or a child who has yet to be diagnosed. Join the American Lung Association and take action now.

“One of my favorite quotes is ‘If it’s to be, it’s up to me,’” said Anika. “That’s why I’m proud to do my part to help the American Lung Association make sure asthma never stands in the way of anyone and their dreams.”