Students Learn to Put Lessons into Action to Fight Childhood Asthma

(October 29, 2012)

Students and faculty in George Mason University's Department of Global and Community Health gathered in October for a discussion on childhood asthma and to learn ways to take an active role in lessening the burden it has on the community. Staff from the American Lung Association in Virginia talked to the group about advocacy opportunities within the Lung Association's Healthy Air Campaign, and Mason professor and epidemiologist, Dr. Becky Dawson discussed asthma related research opportunities, specifically on the links between air pollution and asthma.

Right now, more than seven million children in the U.S. have asthma, and the rate is going up year after year, said Dawson. That's in spite of a number of national and government programs designed to reduce exposure to asthma triggers, and is true even when you factor out changes in definitions and rates of diagnosis.

It's a serious problem and, while we're not certain exactly what causes asthma in kids, we do know what exacerbates it: allergens, viral infections, physical activity, cigarette smoke, and indoor and outdoor air pollution. The science is clear that outdoor air pollutants like ozone, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter are associated with more asthma symptoms, ER visits, hospital admissions, and missed school days for children with asthma.

There are many opportunities for further research, said Dawson, including looking at ER visits and hospital admissions due to asthma on days when air pollution is high.

There are also many ways to influence our nation's policies on air pollution. The American Lung Association's Healthy Air Campaign is working with scientists and public health and medical professionals to get the word out about the effects of soot, smog, and other dangerous pollution on children with asthma. The voices of the medical and scientific communities are key to convincing our leaders to protect our health. Students, professors, and others can get involved by sharing their stories, weighing in with their elected officials, and more at www.fightingforair.org.

To find out more about asthma and the Lung Association's work to reduce its impact on our kids, visit http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/asthma/.