Asthma is a serious health problem throughout the world. During the past two decades, many scientific advances have improved our understanding of asthma and ability to manage and control it effectively. However, recommendations for asthma care need to be adapted to local conditions, resources and services. Since it was formed in 1993, the Global Initiative for Asthma, a network of individuals, organisations and public health officials, has played a leading role in disseminating information about the care of patients with asthma based on a process of continuous review of published scientific investigations. A comprehensive workshop report entitled "A Global Strategy for Asthma Management and Prevention", first published in 1995, has been widely adopted, translated and reproduced, and forms the basis for many national guidelines. The 2006 report contains important new themes. First, it asserts that "it is reasonable to expect that in most patients with asthma, control of the disease can and should be achieved and maintained," and recommends a change in approach to asthma management, with asthma control, rather than asthma severity, being the focus of treatment decisions. The importance of the patient-care giver partnership and guided self-management, along with setting goals for treatment, are also emphasised.