The ladies of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority (AKA) recently joined forces with the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) to tackle the leading chronic disease affecting children: asthma.

Launched on June 16, The Asthma Prevention and Management Initiative was kicked off by international AKA President Carolyn House Stewart and Dr. Yvonne Maddox, deputy director of the NICHD, in Washington D.C. Along with eight top health organizations in the country, such as The American Lung Association and The American Academy of Pediatrics, the program will tackle childhood asthma over the next few years. The mission will educate children and their families about coping with the disease which left untreated, can cause debilitation and even death. Active members of the sorority will answer the call to action by dispersing educational materials, training on home management plans and the proper use of asthma prescriptions.

For the millions of Americans who battle the wheezing, coughing, and painful symptoms associated with asthma every day, simple things like exercising or playing a sport can be an incredible challenge.

Asthma distresses victims in two ways: first by narrowing airways with inflammation, and second by increasing mucus production in the airway. According to the Asthma and Allergies Foundation of America, a pledged sponsor of the cause, asthma is the root source of 5,000 emergency room visits and 1,000 hospitalizations every single day.

The disease, like many others nationwide, disproportionately afflicts African-American and Hispanic children. According to the Center for Disease Control, African-American children are three times more likely to suffer from asthma, with Puerto Rican children having the highest frequency of attacks and fatalities from the disease. The Asthma Prevention and Management Initiative will focus on children currently enrolled in the Head Start and Early Head Start Programs.