Open Letter to Malia Obama

The deaths of young adults from anaphylaxis is a major concern for our association.  We need national leadership on this issue.  Who better than one of the most prominent public figures with peanut allergy in that age group.  That is why Jon Terry has asked Malia Obama for help. 

An Open Letter to Malia Obama

Malia Obama

By Jon Terry
January 13, 2017

Dear Ms. Obama;

Greetings.  I sincerely hope you and your family are doing great and looking forward to a happy and prosperous new year.  And also that you are successfully managing your health particularly your allergy to peanuts.

Ms. Obama, now that your father has finished his term as President of the United States and you will be moving ahead with your own life, I respectfully suggest that you become a public advocate for all Americans with life-threatening allergies at risk for anaphylaxis. As a private citizen, free from the constraints of being the daughter of our President, you can now publicly express your opinion as an individual living with peanut allergy.

I am the founder of the Allergy Advocacy Association in Brockport, NY. Our association is dedicated to supporting programs helping in the prevention of anaphylaxis through awareness, alertness and action. It was created in memory of my sister Ruth T. Cornell who suffered a fatal attack of anaphylaxis after being stung by a honey bee. Our advocacy efforts are concentrated in western NY; we participate in health fairs, family support groups and make presentations to interested audiences. We have actively supported legislation in Albany and Washington, DC to improve access to life-saving epinephrine.

Food allergy is the most common cause of anaphylaxis outside of the hospital and is responsible for approximately 30,000 anaphylactic episodes and 150 to 200 deaths each year in the US. The number of fatalities from anaphylaxis is relatively low yet one out of 13 children in our country have food allergies. According to the Center for Disease Control the number of individuals with food allergies increased by 50% from 1997 to 2011. The American College of Allergy Asthma and Immunology has reported that only 25% of all students in the state of Virginia with prescriptions for epinephrine actually had the EAI devices.

Another example is the No Nuts Moms Group.  They memorialize the names of many food allergy anaphylaxis victims.  Even at a glance it is obvious to me that a disproportionate number of these victims are teenagers just like you.   

Malia, we need a public figure who can demonstrate responsible behavior to her peers by always carrying medications, reading food labels carefully and wearing a medic-alert bracelet or pendant everywhere.   I am not requesting any endorsement of our association whatsoever.  I just want you to consider becoming more actively involved at the national level.  If you were to raise your public profile on food allergy issues you might act as a positive role model for other young adults also at risk for anaphylaxis.  
There are several nation-wide not-for-profit organizations that need your support and encouragement.  They include the Allergy and Asthma Network, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, Food Allergies Research and Education and the Food Allergies Anaphylaxis Connection Team.  I would imagine that they would love having you as a spokesperson helping to raise awareness.  Perhaps you might even consider starting your own non-for-profit organization supporting and articulating the concerns of adolescents and young adults afflicted just as you are.  The bottom line is that I would be very grateful to you if you would take a leadership role helping activists and advocates save lives from anaphylaxis.

Here are some of the issues that I believe most seriously concern individuals and families with life-threatening allergies.

  1. Carrying prescribed Epi-PensTM faithfully
  2. Reading all food labels carefully
  3. Wearing a Medic-Alert bracelet or pendant listing all medical conditions
  4. Reducing the high cost of epinephrine auto-injector devices (EAIs) for all consumers
  5. Providing non-specific epinephrine in public places in case of anaphylaxis emergencies
  6. Improving accommodations and access to epinephrine while flying on airliners

Thank you for your time and attention.  Good luck with all your experiences during 2017 and with your college career at Harvard.  Very best wishes, Malia, to you and all the members of your family!


Jonathan G. Terry, founder

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