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Federal initiative to reduce asthma rates in minority and poor children laudable, but more specifics needed on pollution reduction requirements

Today, U.S. federal agencies unveiled a plan, called “The Coordinated Federal Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Asthma Disparities,” to lower asthma rates among minority and poor children.

AsmathaNearly 26 million Americans are affected by asthma, including 7 million children, especially minority children and children with family incomes below the poverty level.

Asthma rates of African American children are 16 percent, while 16.5 percent of Puerto Rican children suffer from the asthma, more than double the rate of Caucasian children in the United States. The annual economic cost of asthma, including direct medical costs from hospital stays and indirect costs such as lost school and work days, is about $56 billion.

“As the mother of a child with asthma, I know what it means for our children to have clean and healthy air to breathe,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said in a statement.

The action plan will enable federal agencies and their partners to work together in better ways to tackle a major health threat, Jackson said

“Low-income and minority communities often face an unacceptable burden of pollution in this country, diminishing their economic potential and threatening the health of millions of American families,” said Nancy Sutley, Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

The plan is part of the Obama administration efforts to integrate environmental justice into the missions of federal agencies, Sutley said.

The plan is a blueprint for how federal agencies can work together to reduce asthma disparities and help ensure children with asthma get the right care with the right support,” Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said.

“One key factor that is so critical to controlling a child’s asthma is access to health care, Sebelius said. “Uninsured people with asthma are less likely to take the preventive medicine they may need to keep their condition under control, making them more likely to suffer an attack.”

While the action plan has merits, information on whether EPA is stepping up its efforts to curb pollution control is missing. It should be part of any action plan for reducing asthma rates for children and all consumers in America.

The action plan will coordinate efforts to improve asthma management and prevention:

  • Reduce barriers to asthma care: Ensure that the populations most severely impacted by asthma receive comprehensive care, which includes access to medical services, education, and environmental interventions.
  • Build local capacity: Enhance capacity to deliver integrated, community-based asthma care systems.   
  • Target services: Identify the children, families, and communities most impacted by asthma disparities.
  • Accelerate prevention efforts: Increase understanding of the causes of asthma and test interventions that may prevent the onset of asthma. 

For more information on the action plan, please visit

Copyright 2012, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist


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