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Asthma in Southern California

Asthma is epidemic in California -- here's why you need to know about this growing problem for child and adult health

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Asthma is a chronic inflammatory lung disease characterized by recurrent episodes of breathlessness, wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness, called exacerbations. The severity of exacerbations can range from mild to life-threatening. Most people who receive medical treatment for the management and control of asthma do not usually get hospitalized. However, with inadequate medical control, persistent exposure to environmental triggers, or greater severity of the disease, hospitalizations often occur.

According to the 2001 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), an estimated 11.9 percent of Californians (3.9 million adults and children) have been diagnosed with asthma. Asthma is epidemic in California!

Recent data from the California Department of Health Services

  • In 2003, 14.8 percent of children and 12.3 percent of adults in California—an estimated 4.5 million individuals—had been diagnosed with asthma at some point in their lives
  • About 40,000 Californians are hospitalized every year because of asthma. The average cost per hospitalization was $13,000.
  • In California asthma disproportionately affects children and young adults with prevalence being the highest among children 12-17.
  • Asthma is a leading cause of school absenteeism in children and results in missed workdays and lost productivity in adults.
  • The direct and indirect economic impact of asthma was estimated to cost California $1.27 billion dollars in 1998.
  • Over 600 people die from asthma each year in California

What Is Exercise-Induced Asthma?

Exercise is a common cause of asthma symptoms. It is often referred to as exercise-induced asthma (EIA). It is estimated that 80 to 90% of all individuals who have allergic asthma will experience symptoms of EIA with vigorous exercise or activity. For teenagers and young adults this is often the most common cause of asthma symptoms. For more information about Exercise-induced asthema, check with the local chapter of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

For more information on asthma in California

Southern California Chapter, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

5900 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 2330
Los Angeles, CA 90036
FAX: 323.937.7815
Toll-free 800.624.0044
Francene Lifson, Executive Director

Serving southern California counties.

Southern California area including the following counties: Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, Kern, San Bernardino, Orange, Riverside, San Diego and Imperial.

The Southern California Chapter of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America is dedicated to increasing public awareness of the severity of asthma and allergic diseases and improving the quality of life for those who suffer.

AAFA’s services include: 5 Breathmobiles, “asthma clinics on wheels” that provide diagnosis, treatment and education to high risk, disadvantaged children at more than 120 schools; asthma summer camp; a track and field day for children; a toll free helpline and website to request literature and physician referrals; community and professional education programs; Golden Age Senior Program; email newsletters; and certified pollen and mold count information.

In addition, SoCal AAFA offers the Childhood Asthma Initiative that provides in-home asthma education, environmental assessment, and asthma case management for low-income and uninsured children and adolescents who live in downtown and South Central Los Angeles.

Public Policy and Patient Advocacy is also a focus of the Southern California Chapter. AAFA represents patients by informing legislators of important issues relating to patient care and medications for asthma and allergies.

The Kiosk Health Risk Assessment Survey (HRA) system is being used by parents and patients in clinic settings, and by school nurses at school sites. The Kiosk, a touch-screen computer, is placed in the waiting areas of primary and specialty care settings. Parents/patients answer questions, the answers are evaluated using validated scoring algorithms, and a report is instantly produced for the family and the providers. The report predicts:

  • whether a child or adult is likely to have active asthma (yes or no)
  • if yes, is the asthma controlled or uncontrolled by national criteria, and
  • if uncontrolled, is the current severity moderate or severe.
The report also displays the survey answers along with an individualized "visit check list" that is based on predictions. The visit check list can be used as a guide by the family and provider to assure that thorough standard preventive asthma care is delivered.

The standard of care is in accordance with national standards and is supported through the application of disease management principles. The care model includes thorough assessment, tracking of all clinical information and measures to help families understand their daily management plan and shift from episodic care to preventive care for asthma.

The Breathmobile(R), "asthma clinics on wheels" provides preventive asthma care to children at their school site. Through AAFA’s support of the Asthma Disease Management Center, specialists have developed The Kiosk Health Risk Assessment Survey, to help underserved families receive the asthma care they need in medical settings.

California Asthma Partners California Asthma Partners is a statewide partnership of California non-governmental organizations, agencies, institutions, coalitions, collaboratives, and other programs working to implement the Strategic Plan for Asthma in California.

Breathe California of Los Angeles County

Breathe California of Los Angeles County helps children develop skills, knowledge, and awareness to effectively control and manage asthma.

In keeping with Breathe California's commitment to build the capacity of our constituents, 024U is a hands-on young scientist program. College students involve youth in environmental science activities in after-school and youth agency settings.

Breathe California of Los Angeles County is taking a leadership role in clean air advocacy - promoting the importance of our nation's first Children's Breathing Rights Act. Senate Bill 1205 (Escutia) creates the Children's Breathing Rights Fund to help reduce air pollution and fund local children's health initiatives.

They help employees quit smoking. They work with employers to offer Kicking It! at the workplace. Additionally, they work to prevent youth uptake of tobacco by supporting efforts to reduce sales of tobacco to minors. Requiring tobacco retailers to be licensed is a successful way to prevent tobacco sales to minors.

The Center for Healthy Lungs’s mission is to promote lung health throughout Los Angeles County via research funding, as well as, the exchange and dissemination of information via conferences/summits, published articles and Internet libraries.

The American Lung Association of California has developed the Air Quality Flag Program for Central California. This program gives schools the opportunity to hang specially colored flags on their flagpoles to alert students, parents, and teachers about the air quality for the day. By monitoring the color of the flags, people with asthma can easily determine a safe level of outdoor activity on a daily basis.

Central California has the schools that want to participate in this program can obtain the necessary tools from their local asthma coalitions, including:

  • A comprehensive orientation on the program for school staff, students and parents,
  • Easy to understand, culturally appropriate educational materials on air pollution health impacts, the Air Quality Index and the flag program for adults and students in English, Spanish or Hmong,
  • Technical assistance on obtaining and understanding the Valley Air District?s daily electronic air quality report, as well as tips on getting this information through alternative sources as well, and
  • A set of four 28??X 36?? colored, vinyl flags that correspond to the health descriptors of the Air Quality Index (AQI) and an explanation on how to use them.
    • Green flag: Good
    • Yellow flag: Moderate
    • Orange flag: Unhealthy for sensitive groups
    • Red flag: Unhealthy

Approved by the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, the program also offers the Blue Sky/Brown Sky elementary curriculum and classroom materials to interested educators.

Additional resources

Asthma in California, County Statistics
UCLA Center for Health Policy Research

Environmental Health Investigation Branch, State of California

California Department of Health Services

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