A national panel of experts took steps to close the treatment gaps for children with asthma, the common chronic disease among children in the United States that currently remains at historically high levels. These new recommendations were announced at a conference convened by the Merck Childhood Asthma Network Inc (MCAN), State of Childhood Asthma & Future Directions: Implementing Best Practices, which took place December 13-14, 2006, in Washington, DC.

“The prevalence of childhood asthma in the United States remains at unacceptably high levels,” said Floyd J. Malveaux, MD, PhD, executive director of MCAN and former Dean of the College of Medicine at Howard University. “Despite the resources that currently exist, overwhelming disparities have continued to grow, particularly in underserved communities across the United States. Moving forward, we need to apply what we know about the best practices in treating this disease to reduce the burden of this condition in all communities. It is our hope that the outcomes of this conference will serve as a catalyst for action.”

The conference convened a national panel of experts and thought leaders from multiple disciplines across the United States to identify, discuss, and recommend implementation strategies for best practices in research, policy, management, and prevention that will begin to close the gap between recommended and actual childhood asthma management. Specific findings and recommendations include the following:

• Encourage federal agencies to develop a coordinated asthma research strategy across all agencies.

• Share community data: Develop a national network for local asthma surveillance to gather, evaluate, and disseminate asthma information to key community audiences.
• Develop educational tools: Engage and equip asthma care teams with tools that provide them with the knowledge, skills, and resources to effectively advise patients about environmental triggers including smoking cessation, allergen mitigation, and public education classes for families.

• Create a national movement: Galvanize a national children’s asthma movement focusing on key policy issues and barriers to quality care.

• Implement known effective strategies: Improve quality care for all children with asthma by targeting key influential people such as CEOs of health plans, MCO managers, community-based organizations, and other public and private reimbursers of care. These influential individuals should invest resources in evidence-based community and individual interventions and implement tailored intervention strategies that focus on individualized risks.