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World Asthma Day: Why it Matters and How to Get Involved

Celebrated globally every year on the first Tuesday of May, World Asthma Day is a global event that raises awareness about asthma prevention and management. 

By fostering collaboration among healthcare professionals, patients, and advocacy groups, the day aims to enhance asthma care and support worldwide. Working together can improve early diagnosis, disseminate cutting-edge research, and implement effective treatment plans for those affected.

It also seeks to dispel myths and reduce the stigma associated with asthma. For example, World Asthma Day events have featured personal stories of those living with the condition, sharing their daily struggles and triumphs.

Featured in: May Awareness Months, Days & Observances

World Asthma Day History and Background

asthma inhaler
Photo by Sahej Brar on Unsplash

The first World Asthma Day took place in 1998. Initiative founders comprised the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

The objective of establishing World Asthma Day was to increase worldwide consciousness regarding asthma, a long-lasting chronic respiratory disease impacting millions. This annual event, initiated in conjunction with the first World Asthma Meeting in Barcelona, Spain, has occurred on the first Tuesday of May each year since.

Thanks to GINA's effective guidelines based on solid evidence, asthma management has significantly improved for countless individuals across over 35 countries that recognize the event. 

In 2012, the formation of the Global Asthma Network (GAN) marked another significant milestone. This international collaboration aims to alleviate the global burden of asthma through research, surveillance, capacity building, and sharing best practices.

Each year a theme is chosen; for example, World Asthma Day 2023’s activities focused on “Asthma Care for All.”

Asthma and Its Challenges

Asthma, a chronic respiratory condition, affects millions of people worldwide. For people with asthma, a combination of genetic and environmental factors cause inflammation and narrowing of the airways. This leads to chest tightness and breathing difficulties. 

Around 339 million people live with asthma, and it's the most common noncommunicable disease among children. People with asthma face several challenges, such as managing symptoms, identifying triggers, and accessing appropriate medical care.

Air pollution, allergens, and climate change are significant challenges in addressing this chronic disease. For instance, people with pollen allergies may experience heightened asthma symptoms during the pollen season1.

Moreover, differences in the availability of care and treatment regularly exist between wealthy and poorer communities. Asthma also disproportionately impacts low- and middle-income countries3, with limited access to accurate diagnosis, preventive measures, and effective treatment. As a result, researchers observe higher mortality rates in these regions, with asthma accounting for an estimated 417,918 deaths annually.

There is no cure for asthma. However, it's possible to manage the condition effectively, and doing so can reduce the risk of asthma attacks and allow sufferers to live with minimal symptoms.

Misinformation and stigma surrounding asthma add to the complexity of the situation. People with asthma may feel socially isolated and experience poor mental health. For example, a child with asthma may be excluded from sports activities due to misconceptions about their abilities. 

5 Important Facts About Asthma

  • Asthma affects an estimated 339 million people worldwide.
  • The World Health Organization states that over 80% of asthma-related fatalities involve children. 
  • A primary cause behind the development and aggravation of asthma is air pollution, both indoors and outdoors. Studies have found that reducing ambient air pollution could potentially prevent up to 45% of childhood asthma cases in urban environments2.
  • Climate change also aggravates asthma symptoms. With rising temperatures and extreme weather events leading to deteriorating air quality and increased allergen levels, the fight against climate change becomes all the more significant for those with asthma.
  • Lastly, we can’t ignore the workplace when discussing asthma triggers. Exposure to allergens, irritants, and other hazardous substances on the job exacerbates asthma cases.

Efforts and Initiatives

The Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) works towards enhancing asthma awareness, prevention, management, and closing gaps in asthma care. By developing asthma resources and guidelines, GINA enables healthcare professionals and patients to understand better and manage this chronic respiratory condition4.

National and regional efforts further support this agenda. For example, the American Lung Association offers educational programs such as "Asthma Basics" and "Open Airways for Schools," equipping patients, caregivers, and students with critical information. 

Likewise, Asthma Australia's "Asthma Friendly Schools" is another important asthma awareness program that aims to create safe and supportive environments for children with asthma by promoting awareness and preparedness among school communities.

Collaborations between nonprofits, governments, and corporations are also crucial. Companies such as AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline actively contribute to asthma research and fund educational programs. These collaborations also seek to prevent the suffering and cost of treating uncontrolled asthma. 

How to Get Involved and Support World Asthma Day

Participating in World Asthma Day can be engaging and impactful when you attend or organize local events that raise awareness about the condition. For instance, arrange a community walk, run host education events, or set up a booth at a local health fair. 

Social media offers a powerful platform for amplifying the message. Share educational resources and personal stories related to asthma, participate in online discussions, and use relevant hashtags like #WorldAsthmaDay. Sharing your own experiences or those of loved ones helps create empathy and connection among people affected by asthma.

Another meaningful way to contribute is by volunteering with organizations focused on asthma research and advocacy, such as the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. 

Whether you donate your time, money, or expertise, your support can significantly impact essential research, education, and advocacy efforts. Many donations to Asthma charities also support more clinical trials to improve treatments available via healthcare providers. 

Conclusion

World Asthma Day is a crucial rallying point, bringing people together worldwide to combat this chronic respiratory disease. By heightening awareness and championing education, we can enhance the quality of life for countless individuals impacted by asthma. Moreover, the significance of this day stretches far beyond one-time events, as it nurtures continued support and empathy for those living with asthma and their families. 

So, why not join the World Asthma Day movement? Doing so can make a tangible difference—empowering people and communities to manage this condition more effectively. Together, we can support ongoing research endeavors, campaign for cleaner air, and pave the way for a healthier world for everyone. 

World Asthma Day FAQs

1. What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease that causes inflammation and airways narrowing, making breathing difficult.

2. What are the common symptoms of asthma?

The common symptoms of asthma include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath.

3. Can asthma be cured?

Asthma cannot be cured but can be managed with proper treatment and medication.

4. Who is at risk for asthma?

Anyone can develop asthma, but it is more common in people with a family history of asthma, allergies, or exposure to environmental pollutants.

5. How can I help raise awareness for World Asthma Day?

You can help raise awareness for World Asthma Day by sharing information about asthma on social media, participating in local events, and donating to organizations that support asthma research and education.

1

D'Amato, G., Holgate, S. T., Pawankar, R., Ledford, D. K., Cecchi, L., Al-Ahmad, M., ... & Bergmann, K. C. (2015). Meteorological conditions, climate change, new emerging factors, and asthma and related allergic disorders. A statement of the World Allergy Organization. World Allergy Organization Journal, 8(1), 1-52.

2

Khreis, H., Kelly, C., Tate, J., Parslow, R., Lucas, K., & Nieuwenhuijsen, M. (2017). Exposure to traffic-related air pollution and risk of development of childhood asthma: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Environment International, 100, 1-31.

3

To, T., Stanojevic, S., Moores, G., Gershon, A. S., Bateman, E. D., Cruz, A. A., & Boulet, L. P. (2012). Global asthma prevalence in adults: findings from the cross-sectional world health survey. BMC Public Health, 12, 204.

4

Global Initiative for Asthma. (2018). Global strategy for asthma management and prevention.

Photo by Marek Piwnicki on Unsplash
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