Contact Us


All News Releases By Date



Release Date: 05/04/99
Contact Information:

Draper Elementary School
May 4, 1999

Today, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton attended child asthma screenings at Draper Elementary School in Washington, D.C., a city that has the highest asthma rate in the country. There, she promoted the President’s initiative to fight childhood asthma. At the event, the First Lady launched a private sector initiative bringing free asthma screenings across the country, unveiled the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new asthma public service campaign and announced that the Department of Health and Human Services is sending to Congress legislation providing $50 million to fight asthma, a critical component of the President’s $68 million initiative.

Millions Of Children Suffer From Asthma. Over the past 15 years, the number of children afflicted with asthma has doubled to total about six million; in children under age five the asthma rate has increased a dramatic 160% in that same period. Over 100,000 children are hospitalized each year because of asthma, making it the leading cause of hospitalization due to chronic illness for children at a cost of $1.9 billion in medical expenses annually. Asthma is also one of the leading causes of school absenteeism, resulting in over 10 million missed school days each year. In addition, minority children are disproportionately affected by asthma. Although African American children under the age of 18 have only a slightly higher risk of actually having asthma than non-Hispanic white children, they experience a disproportionately higher rate of death from asthma attacks, over four times the rate for white children. Many children with asthma remain chronically impaired because they lack support systems that enable them to effectively manage their own disease or access sufficient medications or equipment. Currently, five percent of Washington D.C.’s residents suffer from asthma compared to the national average of two percent.

First Lady Launched Childhood Asthma Screening Campaign. The First Lady kicked off the Nationwide Asthma Screening Program because the first important step in treating asthma is detecting it. The screening was part of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology’s (ACAAI) public education campaign, funded by Astra Pharmaceuticals, to help the millions of adults and children who suffer from asthma identify, understand and manage their disease. Free screening programs for adults and children took place at over 200 sites nationwide today, including shopping malls, schools, civic centers and health fairs. Since its inception in 1997, the Nationwide Asthma Screening Program has reached more than 11,000 adults and children, more than half of whom have been referred for a professional diagnosis.

New Public Awareness Campaign. To raise awareness of the dangers of second-hand smoke, the First Lady unveiled EPA’s new Public Service Announcements (PSA) campaign. A 1993 EPA study reported that exposure to second-hand smoke considerably worsens asthma for up to one million asthmatic children and second hand smoke is responsible for between 150,000 and 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections annually in infants and children under 18 months of age. In addition, second-hand smoke, a human carcinogen, is known to contribute to serious ear infections, and respiratory tract infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis, and is even said to double the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. As part of its campaign, the EPA has
established a grassroots network of about 1,000 partners including local chapters of the American Lung Association, the American Medical Association and others who will contact television and radio stations in their area to encourage local coverage.

New Local Asthma Prevention Initiative. To address Washington D.C.’s high childhood asthma rate, a coalition of partners including the American Lung Association of the District of Columbia, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the D.C. Department of Health, Howard University Hospital and others have created the Childhood Asthma Campaign. The goals of the campaign are to improve quality of life for children with asthma, to reduce environmental conditions that aggravate asthma, and to address the barriers of health care access for children with asthma. The Childhood Asthma Campaign will be launched within Ward Six of the District - which had the highest asthma mortality rate in 1996 -- in May and will expand into Wards Seven and Eight at a later date.

$50 Million To Develop Asthma Management Strategies For Low Income Children. Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is sending to Congress legislation that authorizes $50 million in competitive grants to states that identify and treat children with asthma enrolled in the Medicaid and CHIP programs in accordance with new disease guidelines developed by the National Institutes of Health. This legislation is part of President Clinton’s $68 million children’s asthma initiative - the largest federal investment to fight childhood asthma ever. The Administration’s four-pronged approach to fighting asthma also includes: implementing school-based programs that teach children how to effectively manage their asthma; investing in research to determine environmental causes of asthma and developing new strategies to reduce children’s exposure to asthma triggers; and conducting a new public information campaign to reduce exposure to asthma triggers.