Tennessee is asthma capital

Friday, February 29, 2008

NASHVILLE -- With Knoxville recently ranked as the No. 1 asthma capital in the country, and four other cities statewide making the list of the top 25 worst places in the United States to live with asthma, the American Lung Association says it's time for Tennessee to get tough on this serious and sometimes even deadly chronic lung disease.

Margaret Smith, the Lung Association's director of education and advocacy, says Tennessee's rankings in the Asthma and Allergy Foundation's 2008 report of the worst places to live if you have asthma should be a wake up call.

"Through research taking place right here in Tennessee and nationwide we're making progress in finding a cure for asthma," said Smith.

Since 2004, the AAFA has issued a report ranking the largest 100 metropolitan areas in America based on the quality of life for people with asthma.

The Foundation's rankings are based on 12 factors grouped into three categories: (1) Prevalence factors such as crude death rate for asthma and estimated prevalence of adult and pediatric asthma; (2) Risk factors such as air pollution, pollen counts and public smoking bans; and (3) Medical factors such as the number of asthma medications used per patient and number of asthma specialists in an area.

Knoxville rose to the top of the 2008 Asthma Capitals due in part to its higher than average annual pollen counts, high pollution, and weak public smoking bans.

and the high use of asthma "rescue" medications per patient.

Other Tennessee cities making the top 25 on the list were Memphis (No. 5), Chattanooga (No. 16), Johnson City (No. 17) and Nashville (No. 25). No other state had so many cities make the list.

A full report of the rankings for all 100 cities can be found on-line at www.asthmacapitals.com.

"We hope these rankings will encourage everyone, including our elected officials, to look at what they can do to help tackle what is clearly a very serious problem in Tennessee," said Dr. D. Betty Lew, Professor of Pediatrics and Director of Allergy/Immunology Training Program at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis.

The American Lung Association of Tennessee will host three Asthma Walks in 2008 to increase awareness about asthma and raise funds for important statewide asthma programs and services.

The Middle Tennessee Asthma Walk will be held on May 3 at the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere. Both the Memphis and Chattanooga Asthma Walks will be held in the fall. For more information on how to sign up for these events, or to make a general donation in support of the fight against asthma, go to www.asthmawalk.org and click on the link for Tennessee.

Asthma is a condition characterized by inflammation of airways in the lungs resulting in chronic wheezing, coughing and difficulty breathing. Asthma has a significant impact on both individual lives and society, including:

More than 4,000 deaths annually

More than 500,000 hospitalizations annually

14.6 million missed days of school each year, making asthma the leading cause of school absenteeism

14.5 million missed days of work for adults each year

1.9 million emergency room visits each year

$18 billion in medical expenses and indirect costs each year .