In support of World Asthma Day, May 3, the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) calls for stakeholders to collaborate to fund, develop and implement prevention and management strategies to control this major disease, impacting 334 million people globally.

FIRS consists of the world’s leading international respiratory societies: the American Thoracic Society (ATS), American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST), Asociación Latinoamericana De Tórax (ALAT), Asian Pacific Society of Respirology (APSR), European Respiratory Society (ERS), International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) and the Pan African Thoracic Society (PATS).

In 2016, World Asthma Day reinforces the new important United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which include plans to reduce premature mortality from noncommunicable diseases by one-third, through prevention and treatment. According to the 2014 Global Asthma Report, avoidable asthma deaths are due to a failure to implement prevention strategies.

Stakeholders must collaborate locally and globally to ensure adequate funding and resources are available to implement effective preventative and therapeutic strategies for this common disease.The causes of asthma are not fully understood. Risk factors include a genetic predisposition along with triggers, such as exposure to substances that irritate the air passages and cause allergic reactions. Triggers include dust, pets, tobacco smoke, chemicals and air pollution. Other causes are physical exercise, certain medications, cold air and even emotions.

In severe cases, asthma can also be fatal; and sadly most asthma-related deaths occur in low- and lower-middle income countries. Asthma is also expensive, accounting for significant health care costs. In the United States alone, asthma cost about $56 million USD in medical costs, lost school and work days and early deaths in 2007.

In 2016, asthma can be treated effectively:

  • Effective management of asthma helps people to enjoy a good quality of life;
  • Avoiding asthma triggers can reduce the severity of asthma;
  • Medications can help control asthma;
  • Long-term preventer medicines help reduce airway inflammation and symptoms;
  • Reliever medications provide quick relief of acute asthma symptoms; and
  • Knowledge and education are key to controlling asthma, and the more people know about the disease, the more effectively they can manage it.

Working together, health professionals and people with asthma can prevent, treat and manage asthma effectively in order to avoid negative health effects. Resources should be used optimally to ensure all people with asthma have access to effective education, prevention and medications.

Leaders in respiratory health must unite globally to invest in community-led solutions to improve the quality of life and reduce morbidity and mortality in asthma. FIRS calls on countries and organizations around the world to invest and take necessary actions to encourage people-centred prevention, treatment and care to ensure that every person with asthma has access to high-value care.