CHICAGO — The American Lung Association announced its Enhancing Care for Children with Asthma project has supported more than 1.5 million children and research has found it can lead to a 42% reduction in the rate of either asthma-related emergency department visits or hospitalizations. This reduction in hospitalizations is especially critical during the pandemic, as healthcare systems are stressed and reaching capacity in several locations across the nation.
Launched in 2012 in collaboration with Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC), the project aims to improve the health and wellbeing of children with asthma by partnering with nearly 450 community clinics across 15 states, including 225 clinic locations across HCSC’s health plans in Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
“Far too many kids truly struggle with asthma symptoms. The good news is that with the right support, symptoms can be managed allowing them to play, learn and live full and healthy lives,” said American Lung Association President and CEO Harold Wimmer. “In just nine years, the Enhancing Care for Children with Asthma project has dramatically improved the lives of more than a million children and reduced hospitalizations and ER visits. It is our hope to ultimately expand the project nationwide to reach the 5.5 million children living with asthma in the U.S.”
With funding from HCSC, the project’s work with 65 community health centers in its first three years was analyzed in an article published in the Journal of Asthma, which detailed the effectiveness of adopting guidelines-based asthma care. And in the March 20th issue of the Journal of Primary Care and Community Health, the program was shown to dramatically improve the health of patients while also showing a significant cost savings for families and the healthcare system, demonstrating a $1: $2:40 return on investment.
“Using data to identify areas with high rates of asthma-related hospital visits, we worked closely with the Lung Association to provide training and resources to local clinics which helped improve the quality of care for children with asthma,” said Monica Berner, MD, HCSC clinical officer. “The success of the project to date — both through reducing hospital visits and increasing school attendance — shows personalized outreach and education can make a difference in the lives of children and families in our communities.”
Through the project, Lung Association staff works with community clinics to implement a 10-step quality improvement program to help support asthma management and care for children. With one-on-one attention, Lung Association staff provides extensive training for providers and other clinic staff on asthma diagnosis, medications, asthma management plans, ongoing asthma management and patient education.
Juanita Mora, MD, an asthma specialist and clinic partner with the American Lung Association, was one of the first practitioners to join the Enhancing Care for Children with Asthma Project after it launched nine years ago.
“I’ve seen children suffering from asthma have their lives transformed with the right care and asthma management plan,” Dr. Mora said. “By participating as an American Lung Association asthma clinic, our full staff has accessed additional training that brings support to patients beyond visits to help them thrive in nearly every aspect of their lives.”
One of Dr. Mora’s patients, Aidan, has seen a dramatic improvement in his quality of life since switching providers and accessing support through the project. His mother, Angelica Huerta-Rocha, was considering moving to a different city because her son’s asthma caused as many as 45 missed school days in one year and regular hospitalizations. Now, Aidan is in high school and is thriving, physically active, rarely missing school and playing saxophone and guitar.
“He’s a completely different kid now,” said Huerta-Rocha. “Before we saw Dr. Mora, no one had ever asked Aidan about his triggers, how he was feeling at school, how he was feeling in general. Now his asthma is more controlled, and he has an asthma action plan, which never happened before.”
Asthma impacts the lives of more than 6 million children in the U.S. and is the second most common chronic health condition among children, translating to 10 million missed school days. When poorly managed, asthma can lead to both healthcare costs and stress for children and their families. Addressing asthma management and care in local communities can have a significant impact in helping children live full, active and healthy lives.
For more information about the Enhancing Asthma Care project, or to find a participating clinic near you, visit Lung.org/enhancingcare. Clinics and partners interested in participating in the program should contact Jill Heins at Jill.Heins@Lung.org. Media interested in speaking with Dr. Mora or another asthma specialist about the program can contact Allison MacMunn at Media@Lung.org or 312-801-7628.