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National Survey Details Americans' Experiences with Asthma Treatments and Medications

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Press Release Date: March 4, 2003

More than 25 million Americans have been told by a physician or other health care provider that they have asthma, according to data collected in 2000 by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. In the 12 months prior to their interview, 6.5 million adults and 3.2 million children had an asthma attack. Asthma is a chronic lung disease caused by inflammation of the lower airways and obstruction of airflow, and asthma attacks can vary from mild to life-threatening.

These data are from AHRQ's Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, which collects data each year on health care costs, use and access from a nationally representative sample of 24,000 individuals and 10,000 households. This is the first time that MEPS has collected comprehensive data on asthma treatments for adults and children in the United States. The data are available in a statistical brief on the AHRQ Web site at (PDF Help).

The detailed findings include:

  • Among people who had an asthma attack in the last 12 months, more than half of adults reported using inhaled corticosteroids, compared with over 40 percent of children. Females were more likely than males to use inhaled steroids.
  • Children between ages 0-17 were more likely (91.2 percent) than adults ages 18 and over (84.3 percent) to use asthma medication other than inhaled steroids.
  • Nearly one-third of the population who reported an asthma attack in the last 12 months also reported having a peak flow meter in the home. A peak flow meter is a hand-held device used to measure the user's ability to expel air from the lungs.
  • Among children, boys were more likely than girls to report having an asthma attack in the last 12 months. However, among adults, women were more than twice as likely as men to report an asthma attack in the last 12 months.

Beginning in 2000, MEPS was enhanced to collect data from people about selected chronic conditions and the preventive services or treatments they use. These new measures will enable researchers to perform in-depth analyses on the quality of health care received by Americans. General information about MEPS is available at

For more information, please contact AHRQ Public Affairs, (301) 427-1364: Karen Carp, (301) 427-1858 (; Karen Migdail, (301) 427-1855 (


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