Asthma and allergies have become increasingly prevalent over the last few decades throughout the WHO European Region, with an average of more than 10% of children suffering from asthmatic symptoms. Asthma is indeed one of the most common chronic diseases and it is a complex and heterogeneous disorder where genetics and environment play an interacting role. In 1995/1996, the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) found that the average annual prevalence of self-reported asthma symptoms in children aged 13-14 years in Europe was 11.5%. Rates ranged from 2.6-4.4% in Albania, Romania, Georgia, Greece and the Russian Federation to 29.1% and 32.2% in Ireland and the United Kingdom, respectively. In the USA, asthma prevalence in children has increased 58% since 1980. Mortality has increased by 78%. More than 3 million people in the UK, including 1.3 million children, were diagnosed in 2002 as having asthma.
Since asthma is responsible for an important health and social burden (according to WHO, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases accounted for 4.2% of the total burden of disease in the European Region in 2000) a pan-European research programme on the gene-environment interactions and their effect on children's health has been created. As a preparatory work a small study focused
- on the identification of the amount of on-going research on asthma (genetics and environment factors) and related topics and
- on the allocation of funding for such research in EU 25.