ASTHMA: Most States Lack Tracking System, Study Finds
While the number of asthma cases in the United States continues to rise, new statistics from the CDC to be released today show that most states lack the ability to monitor the disease, the New York Times reports. The data, reported in a study by Health Track, a public health group financed by Pew Charitable Trusts, shows that 27 states have no asthma tracking system, 30 states lack current statewide asthma information and more than 40 states have no "ready access" to information on the number of people receiving asthma-related emergency care or the quality of asthma care. The report comes at a time when asthma rates have risen as much as 160% in different age groups. Dr. Lynn Goldman, a pediatrician at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, said, "The explosive growth has come recently, and is very unusual." According to statistics from the NIH, asthma is now the most common chronic pediatric disease and is the number one reason for emergency room visits and school absences. While many factors, ranging from ozone and diesel pollution to breast feeding have all been linked to asthma, the exact cause of the growing incidence rate remains a mystery. But in searching for the epidemic's cause, Health Track Executive Director James O'Hara said, "We have blindfolded ourselves, because most states don't have access to one of the least expensive and most effective tools for preventing the spread of the disease: information." He added that a national asthma monitoring system would cost roughly $25 million per year, while the current cost of asthma to the national economy was about $14.5 billion annually and rising. "To prevent and treat the disease, we have to know where to look and what to look for," Goldman said (Hilts, 5/22).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.