Advocacy Update: Asthma and Allergy Protections in Schools, Sesame Labeling, and Health Equity

Allergies & Asthma

Welcome to your mid-year advocacy update from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). And what a year it has been so far!

AAFA kicked off the year with the passing of two important bills in January. Former President Trump signed the School-Based Asthma and Allergy Management Program Act on Jan. 5. This bill encourages states to improve allergy and asthma care in schools. And Governor Charlie Baker signed Laura’s Law on Jan. 15 in Massachusetts. This law requires easy access to emergency department entrances.

The Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research Act of 2021 (FASTER Act) was another victory early this year. After the bill passed in the Senate, AAFA sent a letter to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on March 12, 2021, asking that the bill be brought up again in the House. We then launched a grassroots campaign. More than 3,000 AAFA and Kids With Food Allergies (KFA) community members contacted their congresspeople in four short weeks. Kudos to you all!

The House passed the FASTER Act on April 14, 2021. President Biden signed it into law on April 23, 2021. Manufacturers now have until Jan. 1, 2023, to label sesame as a major allergen. The Department of Health and Human Services must provide a report to Congress on food allergy research before Oct. 2022.    

AAFA’s Letters of Support 

This year AAFA has issued 46 sign-on or comment letters covering our key policy priorities. These include access to health care coverage and medicine, clean air, climate change, healthy schools, health equity, and federal funding. You can find all letters on our Positions and Statements page. Here are a few of the highlights:

AAFA’s Zoom-In on Health Equity

On April 26-30, 27 AAFA advocates took part in 41 virtual meetings on Capitol Hill as part of AAFA’s “Zoom-In on Health Equity.” The participants included:

  • Three community advocates: Shreaya Madireddy, Anela Malik, and Valerie Vison
  • Mark Vieth, consultant
  • 13 AAFA board members
  • Seven AAFA regional chapter executives and staff
  • Kenneth Mendez, AAFA’s CEO and President
  • Kafi Brown, AAFA’s Director of Public Relations
  • Jenna Riemenschneider, AAFA’s Director of Advocacy (me!)

We advocated for action on these topics:

  • $35 million in funding for the National Asthma Control Program (NACP) – The NACP is a successful program run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that funds health departments and state-based and national programs that help people manage their asthma. It is currently funding community-based asthma interventions in 23 states, Puerto Rico, and Houston, Texas. An increase in funding to $35 million would allow the program to fund another four to five states and to improve nationwide asthma surveillance.
  • The Elijah E. Cummings Family Asthma Act – This bill is named in honor of its original co-sponsor, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings. The bill would create programs to better educate families on asthma management and prevention. It would also improve asthma research and data collection to help target asthma interventions more effectively. AAFA is working to get this bill reintroduced into Congress soon.
  • The Improving Social Determinants of Health Act (S. 104/H.R. 379) – This bill would allow the CDC to create a program to improve health outcomes and reduce inequalities and to help public health and community organizations address Social Determinants of Health (SDOH).
  • The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act (S. 346/H.R. 959) – This act is a set of 12 bills aimed at addressing the maternal health crisis, ending maternal deaths, and closing racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health outcomes.

AAFA Community in Action

On May 6, AAFA held an “Advocacy Action Day” as part of National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. More than 300 AAFA community members contacted their lawmakers to share the impact of asthma and allergies on their lives. Advocates highlighted the following needs of people with asthma and allergies to live healthy and full lives:

  • Affordable, accessible, quality health care
  • Clean air
  • Healthy homes
  • Safe food
  • Financial stability
  • Education

We are also thankful for the more than 4,700 AAFA and KFA community members who have taken advocacy actions so far this year.

People with asthma and allergies need policies that support healthy and full lives

Sign up to receive AAFA’s Advocacy Action Alerts via text to stay up to date on our campaigns. Just text “AAFA” to 313131 to sign up. You can also join our online community to receive alerts in your email.

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