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Indoor Allergens: Assessing and Controlling Adverse Health Effects
THE ROLE OF EDUCATION
Improved education is essential to the prevention and control of indoor allergic disease. This is true both for common allergic conditions of low-to-moderate severity and for less common diseases that are more severe and/or potentially fatal. Medical education at all levels (medical schools, postgraduate training programs, and continuing medical education programs for practicing physicians) should emphasize the importance of recognizing and properly managing these diseases. Nurses, physician assistants, and other nonphysician health care providers require similar education and training. In addition, patients and the general public should be made aware of when and where to seek medical help for allergy-related health problems.
One recent publication, the National Asthma Education Program's Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma (NHLBI, 1991), presents detailed recommendations for diagnosing and managing asthma. It also emphasizes the importance of education and of identifying causative agents, such as indoor allergens, that may initiate and exacerbate asthma symptoms. An evaluation of the impact of these guidelines awaits their wide dissemination and acceptance. Meanwhile, efforts to improve what is already known about preventing and controlling allergic diseases should continue. This knowledge should be disseminated to health care providers, allergy patients, and the public at large.
RECOMMENDATIONS AND RESEARCH AGENDA
This report describes what is known about the adverse effects on human health caused by indoor allergens, the magnitude of the problem nationally, the specific causative agents and their sources, the testing methods currently used for identifying allergens and diagnosing related diseases, and finally the need for increased knowledge and awareness of indoor allergens among primary care physicians, patients, and others. In describing these issues, the committee identified and developed a list of research agenda items and 15 priority recommendations. The recommendations focus primarily on the need to improve awareness and education, and as such are also relatively inexpensive and easy to implement compared to the research agenda items. The research agenda focuses on the longer term, more expensive, and more technical aspects of fundamental research and data collection.
Although cost-benefit analyses were beyond the scope of the committee's charge in conducting this study the committee's findings have been separated into recommendations and research agenda items, as described above, based on relative ease of implementation and estimations of associated costs. Policy development and further priority setting, however, should be based