142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition

Annual Meeting Recordings are now available for purchase

Can primary prevention of asthma be extended beyond the work environment?

142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition (November 15 - November 19, 2014): http://www.apha.org/events-and-meetings/annual
Tuesday, November 18, 2014 : 9:34 AM - 9:50 AM

Elise Pechter, MPH, CIH , Occupational Health Surveillance Program, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Boston, MA
Polly Hoppin, ScD , Lowell Center for Sustainable Production, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, MA
Molly Jacobs Lefevre, MPH , Environmental Health Initiative, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, MA

Asthma affects 18.7 million adults in the US, contributing to poor quality of life, disability, and medical costs.  In Massachusetts, 10.3% of adults have current asthma.  Work-related asthma (WRA) contributes significantly to this burden. Nearly 50% of adults report that work caused or worsened their asthma; sentinel surveillance systems in five states continue to uncover WRA in specific industries, occupations, and with use of certain agents. Yet, asthma is often seen as genetic in origin and manageable—missing opportunities to prevent the disease. 


The Strategic Plan for Asthma in Massachusetts, 2009-14, set a goal of developing a roadmap for primary prevention of asthma.  The lead partner was the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production. With guidance from a multi-stakeholder planning committee, they convened an innovative 2-day symposium with researchers, clinicians, advocates and government representatives to discuss asthma prevention.  Researchers summarized the weight of the evidence on a number of factors and assessed whether each was “ready for action.” The WRA project in the Massachusetts Department of Public Health participated, articulating that chemicals can initiate asthma with implications for workers and communities.  The symposium’s methods, products, and subsequent organizing are promoting collaboration and provide opportunities for occupational issues to shape thinking.


Reducing company use of and workplace exposures to asthmagens and irritants should be seen as components of a public health responsibility to prevent asthma, in the same way that we discourage smoking, develop neighborhoods protected from traffic and reduce racism and violence in the community.

Learning Areas:

Occupational health and safety
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Describe primary prevention of asthma. Explain the contribution of work-related asthma to adult asthma burden. Demonstrate the potential for asthma prevention based on work-related asthma.

Keyword(s): Occupational Health and Safety, Asthma

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have worked on work-related asthma surveillance and prevention for 17 years at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and participated in the planning and execution of the Primary Prevention of Asthma symposium in April 2013, on which this abstract is based.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.