November 30, 2009

Public Health Leaders Endorse New Gillibrand Legislation to Combat Childhood Asthma

New Measure Would Provide $100 Million to Create Asthma Management Plans and Make Inhalers and Spacers Available to Every Child in Need

Washington, D.C. - Today top health authorities in New York and across the country are endorsing legislation authored by U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand that would provide $100 million to help schools develop asthma management plans, and make inhalers and spacers available at school when needed. The Asthma in Schools Act, which will be introduced this week, is part of Senator Gillibrand's comprehensive plan to provide tools needed to fight childhood asthma. According to estimates by Senator Gillibrand's office, more than 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.

"All New York children deserve the opportunity to grow up strong, healthy and successful. 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 suffered from asthma, so I know how terrifying it is for a child to not be able to breathe. 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," said Senator Gillibrand.

"On any given school day, the highest prevalence of childhood asthma is in the classrooms of our schools. This bill will provide needed funding to schools to implement a comprehensive school asthma management program to control asthma. When their asthma is controlled, children can learn and function at their maximum potential," said New York State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines.

"Senator Gillibrand's legislation will help families, schools and health care providers coordinate services for children with asthma. Children all over America stand to benefit," said New York City Health Commissioner, Dr. Thomas Farley.

"This legislation will provide grants to schools or local health departments in areas with high asthma prevalence to ensure children with asthma are properly managing their disease. At the heart of this effort will be the development of asthma management plans. Asthma management plans are critical in helping children with asthma control their disease. This legislation will ensure that schools play an appropriate role in students' efforts to control their asthma, as well as coordinate care with the families and medical personnel. In addition, it will ensure that schools educate their staffs about asthma and develop emergency policies. Your legislation will also allow schools to purchase inhalers and spacers for students. These life-saving devices will ensure that students with asthma get the treatment they need while at school," said Charles D. Connor, President and CEO, American Lung Association.

"Nothing is more important than keeping our children healthy, in school and ready to learn. Establishing the line of communication with school staff that watch over our children and a child's physician, especially through an asthma action plan, will help to create an asthma management team that can help students and their families control this complex chronic disease," said Dr. Floyd Malveaux, Executive Director of MCAN and former Dean of the College of Medicine at Howard University.

Senator Gillibrand's comprehensive plan to help New York children suffering from asthma:

1.  Create School Asthma Management Plans. Senator Gillibrand's plan will provide over $100 million in funding to schools in low-income, high-incidence areas to develop and implement a comprehensive school asthma management policy and program.

2. Make Inhalers Available to Every Child in Need. The Federal Drug Administration 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 also allows the money to be used to purchase inhalers and spacers for children who need them, to ensure that children suffering from asthma have access to the treatment they need during the school day.

3. Train More Asthma Educators. New York only has around 100 asthma educators - experts in counseling individuals with asthma and their families on how to treat and lead healthy lives with asthma. To incentivize more health professionals to become asthma educators, Senator Gillibrand urged 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.

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 introduced the Asthma Act which would provide new funding for asthma research. Senator Gillibrand is also co-sponsoring legislation that will help to create standardized national data to identify where funding is needed.