Taking Charge of Your Asthma and COPD: It Just Might Be Up to You

April is National Minority Health Month. Minorities suffer more from asthma and COPD than nonminorities. In terms of asthma, minorities are two to three times more likely to require emergency care or hospitalizations due to poor asthma control. They also are more likely to miss time from work or school due to asthma.

Despite these statistics, there is reason for hope. Current medications for asthma and COPD are more effective than ever before. Becoming an engaged and informed patient by learning about your medications and taking your medications as directed, avoiding triggers such as smoking or spending time around people who smoke, and becoming an active partner with your physician in maintaining good respiratory health are all critical. Taking charge of your asthma or COPD means not missing school or work and having little or no limitation in routine activities and exercise. If you are not achieving these goals, talk with your physician.

You would not pay for a car or a flat screen television without knowing all about what you were buying. You would do your research, learn the facts, and figure how to get a good deal. You would then go to the salesperson and discuss the purchase to make sure you got the best deal for your time and your money. While our health is so much more valuable than material purchases, we often invest far too little of our time and effort into staying healthy. We are far too passive when we meet with our doctors. We often expect or demand far less from our doctor than we do from salespeople. We usually get our cars serviced regularly to make sure they continue to run well. Yet, far too few of us get physicals annually to make sure our bodies run at least as well as our cars.

Breathing is something we all take for granted, but our lives are greatly dependent on it. Take charge today, take your medicines, avoid triggers, and let your doctor know if you are not doing as well as you think you should be doing. Become a strong partner with your doctor so every breath is your very best.


  LeRoy M. Graham Jr., MD, FCCP, is Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at Morehouse School of Medicine and Staff Physician at Scottish Rite Children’s Medical Center, Hughes Spalding Children’s Hospital, and Egleston Children’s Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. In addition, he is a partner at Georgia Pediatric Pulmonology Associates, PC, a private practice in Atlanta. Dr. Graham is a member of the ACCP Board of Regents and was recently named to the ACCP Diversity Task Force, also serving as chair of the Task Force’s subcommittee on education and research. The task force was commissioned to address health disparities attributable to respiratory disease. Dr. Graham is proud to be the founder and medical director of Not One More Life, Inc. (NOML), a not-for-profit (501c3) organization. NOML partners with communities of faith to provide free programs for screening, education, referral, and outcome monitoring to address the disparities in morbidity and mortality attributable to asthma and other lung diseases among urban minority populations.


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