Despite major advances in the understanding of the pathogenesis of asthma and improvements in management, the accompanying benefits from public health initiatives and clinical practice have arguably been less than expected. For example, there are no effective public health strategies or treatment regimes that reduce the risk of developing asthma or influence its natural history. These represent priority areas for future translational research, which would need to investigate genetic and environmental interactions and vaccine strategies. In terms of asthma management it is tempting to focus on novel drug therapies; however, a case can be made that the priority is to undertake research that leads to improvements in the use of existing treatments through public health and primary care initiatives. Guidelines represent an important component of this approach, with recommendations for asthma imbedded within respiratory guidelines that can be implemented in the developing world where other acute and chronic respiratory disorders are common. This approach offers the best opportunity to close the gap between what is currently achieved in asthma management and that which is potentially achievable.