Bringing National Attention to the Need for Comprehensive Asthma Care

EPA is currently accepting applications for the 2010 National Environmental Leadership Award in Asthma Management, which recognizes leadership in addressing environmental triggers as part of comprehensive asthma programs. I can personally attest to the benefits of winning; in 2006, it was awarded to my program, Improving Pediatric Asthma Care in the District of Columbia (IMPACT DC).

Winning the award gave us more visibility, increasing our network and allowing us to speak with a more validated voice. We’re leveraging more opportunities to enhance asthma care services for the underserved in our community, implementing projects that allow us to increase our impact where it’s needed most. For example, we are using geographic information systems (GIS) to map emergency department (ED) visits to identify neighborhoods in need of asthma outreach and education. In addition, a grant project through the National Institutes of Health is allowing us to leverage electronic medical records, improving communication among primary care providers and generating important information about long-term trends in community health.

The award also helped us develop high-performing partnerships with local, regional and national leaders. For example, we began working with the Boston Public Health Commission, a 2009 Award Winner, to develop a legal framework for environmental remediation of rented dwellings whose poor environmental conditions risk tenants’ health. Finally, winning the award helped us increase our funding base through grants and donations. Each of these projects, partnerships and funds enhances IMPACT DC’s ability to provide comprehensive asthma care to our community members, enabling them to lead healthier, happier lives.

EPA’s emphasis on comprehensive asthma care and willingness to broadly conceptualize the issues has been important to ‘turning the tide’ of asthma care in the United States. Through the National Environmental Leadership Award, programs like ours have a platform from which to show health care providers, insurance plans, health departments, and community-based coalitions that a comprehensive approach works to improve the health, quality of life and cost of medical care for people with asthma.

If you know of a health plan, health care provider or community program improving the quality of life for those with asthma, encourage them to apply for the National Environmental Leadership Award.

Together, we can bring these issues to the forefront of the nation’s consciousness and improve the lives of millions with asthma.

About the Author: Dr. Stephen Teach is the principal investigator and medical director of IMPACT DC, and also serves as the associate chief of Emergency Medicine and associate director of the Center for Clinical and Community Research at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.