Problem/condition: Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases in the United States, and it has increased in importance during the preceding 20 years. Despite its importance, no comprehensive surveillance system has been established that measures asthma trends at the state or local level.
Reporting period: This report summarizes and reviews national data for specific end-points: self-reported asthma prevalence (1980-1994), asthma office visits (1975-1995), asthma emergency room visits (1992-1995), asthma hospitalizations (1979-1994), and asthma deaths (1960-1995).
Description of system: The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) annually conducts the National Health Interview Survey, which asks about self-reported asthma in a subset of the sample. NCHS collects physician office visit data with the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, emergency room visit data with the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, and hospitalization data with the National Hospital Discharge Survey. NCHS also collects mortality data annually from each state and produces computerized files from these data. We used these datasets to determine self-reported asthma prevalence, asthma office visits, asthma emergency room visits, asthma hospitalizations, and asthma deaths nationwide and in four geographic regions of the United States (i.e., Northeast, Midwest, South, and West).
Results: We found an increase in self-reported asthma prevalence rates and asthma death rates in recent years both nationally and regionally. Asthma hospitalization rates have increased in some regions and decreased in others. At the state level, only death data are available for asthma; death rates varied substantially among states within the same region.
Interpretation: Both asthma prevalence rates and asthma death rates are increasing nationally. Available surveillance information are inadequate for fully assessing asthma trends at the state or local level. Implementation of better state and local surveillance can increase understanding of this disease and contribute to more effective treatment and prevention strategies.