Kirsten Gillibrand United States Senator for New York

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Gillibrand Announces Plan to Help New York Children Suffering from Asthma

Over 370,000 New York Children Suffer from Asthma, 14 Percent of Low-Income Children

August 5, 2009

Washington, D.C. - Over 370,000 New York children suffer from asthma. More than 8 percent of children statewide and 14 percent of low-income children in New York suffer from asthma, and more than 40,000 New York children were hospitalized for asthma attacks between 2005 and 2007.  As part of her broad, comprehensive agenda to improve the lives of children and families in every corner of New York, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today unveiled her plan to help children suffering from asthma by arming New York schools and families with the preventative and emergency resources they need.


"All New York children deserve the opportunity to grow up strong, healthy and successful," Senator Gillibrand said. "But too many of our children suffering with asthma do not have access to inhalers and other kinds of care they need. My own child has asthma, so I know about the horrible toll this can have on children. We have a moral obligation to the children of this state to ensure their health and well-being. My plan will put more inhalers in schools, train more teachers and health professionals to be experts in asthma, and give more families the resources they need to care for their children's asthma."

A new report from Senator Gillibrand's office reveals that over 370,000 children in New York suffer from asthma. Between 2005 and 2007, more than 40,000 New York children were hospitalized for asthma-related causes.  Asthma costs our economy over $16 billion each year in medication, lost school and work days, urgent care and emergency visits, and hospitalizations.

READ Senator Gillibrand's full report on New York Children suffering from asthma.

  • In New York City, over 180,000 children suffer from asthma. Nearly 28,000 were hospitalized overnight for their asthma between 2005 and 2007;
  • In Western New York, over 20,000 children suffer from asthma. Nearly 2,000 were hospitalized overnight for their asthma between 2005 and 2007;
  • In the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region, over 20,000 children suffer from asthma. Nearly 1,000 were hospitalized overnight for their asthma between 2005 and 2007;
  • In Central New York, over 17,000 children suffer from asthma. Nearly 900 were hospitalized overnight for their asthma between 2005 and 2007;
  • In the Southern Tier, over 9,000 children suffer from asthma. Over 500 were hospitalized overnight for their asthma between 2005 and 2007;
  • In the Capital Region, over 17,000 children suffer from asthma. Over 1,000 were hospitalized overnight for their asthma between 2005 and 2007;
  • In the North Country, over 7,000 children suffer from asthma. Nearly 400 were hospitalized overnight for their asthma between 2005 and 2007;
  • In the Hudson Valley, over 40,000 children suffer from asthma. Over 2,500 were hospitalized overnight for their asthma between 2005 and 2007;
  • On Long Island, nearly 50,000 children suffer from asthma. Over 3,500 were hospitalized overnight for their asthma between 2005 and 2007.

Today, Senator Gillibrand unveiled her comprehensive plan to help New York children suffering from asthma lead successful, healthy lives by arming our schools with preventative and emergency treatment capabilities.

1. Make Inhalers Available to Every Child in Need
The FDA now requires drug makers to manufacture inhalers with a reduced impact on the environment, and completed phasing out the sale of the inhalers containing harmful propellants last year. To help schools and families afford the new inhalers they need, Senator Gillibrand's plan will provide over $100 million in funding to schools in low-income, high-incidence areas to purchase inhalers and spacers - so children suffering from asthma have access to the treatment they need.  The cost of the program is based on asthma rates among low income children at Title I schools.  The funding will provide the school with the inhalers they need and a spacer for every child.

2.  Create School Asthma Management Plans
In order to qualify for the free inhalers and spacers program, Senator Gillibrand will require that schools draft and implement a comprehensive school asthma management policy and program, including:

  • A method to identify all students with asthma and their prescriptions;
  • Asthma education for all school staff;
  • Access to medication and methods to administer medication for all children based on their individual needs;
  • Medication and emergency policies specific to each school;
  • Protocols and training to support clinical management of acute symptoms and ongoing management;
  • Systems to support ongoing care coordination with family, primary care provider and others as necessary;
  • Methods to monitor quality and outcomes of student's asthma care;

3. Train More Asthma Educators
New York only has about 100 asthma educators - experts in counseling individuals with asthma and their families on how to treat and lead healthy lives with asthma.  Asthma educators are required to put in 1,000 hours at clinical sites to complete their training, a cost that is not reimbursable by insurance.  This puts considerable financial burden on anyone interested in becoming an asthma educator.

To incentivize more health professionals to become asthma educators, Senator Gillibrand is urging U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to direct more workforce development funding to support the training of additional certified asthma educators in New York and across the country.

Investing in asthma educators can help minimize the effects of asthma on a child's everyday life and cut costs over the long run by reducing expensive trips to the emergency room. In fact, studies show that for every dollar invested in asthma education, we can save up to $36 in direct and indirect costs associated with treating asthma.

4. Invest in More Research and Data Collection
Medical and scientific research holds the potential to unlock new treatments for children suffering from asthma. To give scientists and laboratories the resources they need to make the next breakthrough in asthma treatment, Senator Gillibrand will introduce the Asthma Act - legislation sponsored by Congresswoman Nita Lowey in the House, which will provide new funding for asthma research.

Additionally, this legislation will improve collaboration of federal agencies for better asthma surveillance and data collection, and give all states, schools and families the resources they need to raise awareness, provide asthma training for educators, and referrals to health plans that provide treatment for every child suffering from asthma through the Children's Health Insurance Program.

Furthermore, national data on asthma rates is lacking, presenting an enormous obstacle in our efforts to combat this problem over the long term.  Over the coming months, Senator Gillibrand will work with Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey to author legislation that will help to create standardized national data that will help identify where funding is needed most.

Senator Gillibrand's letter to Secretary Sebelius is below:

The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius
United States Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, SW

Washington, DC  20201

Dear Secretary Sebelius,

I write to you today about an issue near to my heart that affects over 22 million Americans, including nearly 7 million children - asthma. Asthma costs this country over $16 billion dollars each year through medication, lost school and work days, urgent care and emergency room visits, and hospitalizations. Many of these costs are preventable, especially when an asthma educator is utilized.

Asthma educators are experts in teaching and counseling individuals with asthma and their families.  An asthma educator will help establish an asthma action plan customized to the individual's needs, environment, disease severity, and lifestyle to minimize the impact of asthma on the individual's quality of life.  The goal is to reduce emergency room visits and hospitalizations, which are far costlier than simple measures taken to reduce the risk of an asthma attack.

Numerous studies have been done to examine the cost-effectiveness of intervention in the form of asthma educators.  Studies show that between $7 and $36 is saved in direct and indirect costs for every $1 invested in asthma education.  With more educators serving the asthmatic population, direct and indirect costs to the patient and the health sector could be significantly reduced.

However, asthma educators must train "on-the-job," which means they must work in actual clinical sites to meet the 1,000 hour requirement for certification.  This training is not reimbursable by insurance, so it is a considerable expense for anyone wishing to become trained.  Following the 1,000 hours of training, the candidate must sit for a national board exam.  This rigorous training has led to only 2,700 certified asthma educators nationally and 100 in New York State.

With an urgent need to better manage asthma and reduce preventable health care costs, I respectfully request that a federal investment be made in increasing the number of certified asthma educators by using workforce development funding through Titles VII and VIII of the Public Health Service Act.  By investing in better education and treatment for those with asthma, we can improve health and reduce health care spending. Thank you for your consideration of this important request.

Sincerely,

Kirsten Gillibrand
U.S. Senator