Asthma is the single most common chronic condition among children in the United States. Approximately 6.2 million children under age 18 in the U.S. have asthma, with poor and minority children suffering a greater burden of the disease.The poorest children with family incomes below 100% of the federal poverty line, have an asthma prevalence of 10.6%, compared to 7.2% asthma prevalence among higher income children.

Not only is pediatric asthma widespread, the economic burden is substantial.  Researchers estimate that asthma costs the U.S. healthcare system $56 billion annually in both direct healthcare expenditures and indirect costs from lost productivity.  Asthma is the third leading cause of hospitalization among children under the age of 15, and is associated with increased emergency department visits. Pediatric asthma is also one of the leading causes of school absenteeism, accounting for 13.8 million lost school days and 10.1 million days of missed work by caretakers.

Researchers project that improving asthma management among vulnerable populations could save as much as 25% of total asthma costs, and help millions of children lead healthy, active lives. Unfortunately, most children do not have well-controlled asthma, and nearly 60 percent of children with diagnosed asthma have experienced an attack within the previous 12 months, and the prevalence of asthma attacks has been increasing by 1.6% per year. Increasing the number of children that have their asthma appropriately managed and addressing the underlying factors that cause asthma attacks should be priorities for public health.

Collaborating to Protect the Health of Kids with Asthma

In order to address the serious and pervasive problem of childhood asthma in the United States, in 2012 the Merck Childhood Asthma Network (MCAN) partnered with the Department of Health Policy at the George Washington University (GWU) and First Focus to establish a new national multi-sector coalition to raise awareness and advance public policies to improve the health of children who suffer from asthma. In 2015, new funding was obtained through the Kresge Foundation to continue the work of the Coalition.

The Childhood Asthma Leadership Coalition consists of leading advocates and experts in childhood asthma, public health, environmental health, poverty, housing, health care, and health care economics. Members come from a variety of professional backgrounds, including clinical researchers, medical doctors, service providers, and policy analysts. By working together, the Coalition aims to accelerate prevention and improve the diagnosis, treatment, and long-term management of childhood asthma through targeted state and federal efforts. The Coalition also works to address barriers that prevent children from accessing the health care services they need to control and manage asthma.

The Childhood Asthma Leadership Coalition’s Policy Goals

Collaboration and leadership on childhood asthma is especially important at this critical time in Washington when policymakers are making important decisions about the future of federal investments in our nation’s public health and health coverage systems. By establishing a unified and informed voice using credible experts, the Coalition sets a clear vision for policy solutions which relies on evidence-based research to improve health outcomes for children with asthma. The Coalition’s leading policy goals include:

  • Ensuring the availability of stable and continuous health insurance for children with asthma;
  • Developing high-quality clinical care, case management when indicated, and asthma education for all children;
  • Reducing asthma triggers in homes and communities;
  • Creating a nation-wide strategic plan for asthma research to develop new and effective treatments;
  • Identifying new opportunities to improve asthma care that arise from the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

The Coalition strives to achieve these goals by examining the issues surrounding childhood asthma, identifying best practices, raising awareness through public education, and issuing policy recommendations. 

The Bottom Line: Children with Asthma Deserve a Healthier Future

Childhood asthma is a treatable and manageable disease. Coordinated federal engagement on asthma-related research and policy has the potential not only to save lives but also to spur the creation of cost-effective policies. Together we can work to ensure that the millions of children with asthma in the United States are able to grow up to become healthy and productive adults.

Download the Childhood Asthma Leadership Coalition one pager.