The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has awarded a grant to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) for a new awareness program focused on improving recognition of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

“Millions of Americans don’t even know they have sleep apnea, which puts them at greater risk for other health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and depression,” says AASM president Raman Malhotra, MD, in a release. “This grant from the CDC will support education and outreach to improve sleep apnea awareness so that people can get the treatment they need to sleep better and enhance their quality of life.”

The AASM is partnering with several other specialty medical societies that have members who are active in the delivery of clinical care for obstructive sleep apnea, the patient-focused Alliance of Sleep Apnea Partners, and the National Sleep Foundation, which has an established history of directly educating the public about sleep health. The three-year project will help increase awareness of obstructive sleep apnea among public health professionals, health care providers, and the public. The program also will support the sleep health objectives of Healthy People 2030, the nation’s 10-year public health plan, which includes the objective, “Increase the proportion of adults with sleep apnea symptoms who get evaluated by a health care provider.” Baseline data show that only 33.1% of adults aged 20 years and over with symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea sought medical evaluation in 2015 – 2016. Another focus of the program will be to address sleep health disparities by developing strategies to improve awareness in Black, Native American, and Hispanic communities, in which the prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea is higher.

“This grant will help us improve national awareness efforts, including initiatives supporting racial and ethnic minority populations that have a higher prevalence of sleep apnea,” Malhotra says. “It is important for people to identify the warning signs of sleep apnea and discuss their symptoms with a health care provider.”

The grant was awarded through the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion as part of the “Expanding the National Approach to Chronic Disease Education and Awareness” funding opportunity. The first year of funding awarded to the AASM is approximately $327,000.

The program will be led by the AASM and its key partner, the Sleep Research Society. Collaborating organizations will include the Alliance of Sleep Apnea Partners, American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, American College of Chest Physicians, American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, American Thoracic Society, public relations agency Hager Sharp, and the National Sleep Foundation. These organizations are committed to raising awareness of obstructive sleep apnea and providing expertise to educate the public and providers about this chronic disease affecting millions of Americans.