Asthma and atopic illness account for a substantial burden of social morbidity. The purpose of this brief report will be to provide an overview of the different dimensions to the socio-economic burden of asthma and other atopic diseases and suggest areas where future research in this area may advance our understanding of the impact of various treatment strategies of these diseases. While there are occasional studies which describe the full dimensions of this social and economic burden, more studies are needed to complete our understanding of this burden especially studies that investigate the relative cost-effectiveness of medical and non-medical interventions. These studies will provide the infrastructure to rationally examine the optimal cost-effective strategies for these illnesses. In particular economic studies are needed to examine how best to balance resource expenditures for preventive versus pharmacologic control. Use of health economic methods will provide insights into the most efficient design and implementation of current disease control, with potentially concomitant reductions in costs and social burden for atopic illnesses, including asthma.