Health outcomes for children with asthma could be greatly improved if we simply made better use of existing programs, according to a George Washington University report supported by the Merck Childhood Asthmas Network (MCAN).

“Childhood asthma presents one of the nation’s starkest examples of what is wrong with the health care system. Even as more than 1 million children with asthma lack coverage, the nation is squandering health care dollars on costly treatment while missing key prevention opportunities,” said Sara Rosenbaum, JD, chair of the university’s Department of Health Policy and co-lead author of the report.

According to press materials by Merck, the yearlong investigative report showed that 600,000 of the estimated 1.17 million uninsured children with asthma are eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. In addition, 180,000 children who aren’t eligible would be if each state expanded eligibility to 300 percent of the federal poverty line (several states are already at this level).

“For those children most at risk, stable and continuous health insurance could lead to greater access to care, controlled health spending and improved overall health,” said Floyd Malveaux, executive director of MCAN and former dean of the College of Medicine at Howard University.

Most at risk of asthma are low-income, medically underserved, African-American and Hispanic children who have the least access to preventive care and the most emergency room visits.

Researchers also identified community health centers as a resource for children’s asthma management.

“To date, the knowledge, programs and infrastructure America has amassed about childhood asthma is like an unassembled puzzle,” Rosenbaum said. “We have the pieces; it’s time that we put them together.”

Learn how to manage you and your child’s asthma here.