Making a Difference: Conducting Environmental Interventions to Deliver Asthma Care

By Jan Roberts

Chances are you or someone you know has asthma. Whether it’s your child, parent or friend, this person helps make up the nearly 25 million people with asthma living in the U.S. This statistic is staggering, as asthma is one of the most controllable diseases. Our job at Genesee County Asthma Network is to turn around this figure by making healthy, environmental changes within our community. By making small changes in homes and schools, we can significantly improve our patients’ quality of life.

Those affected by asthma often use only 50 percent of their lung function because they don’t – or are unable to – eliminate the asthma triggers around them. To effectively deliver high-quality asthma care, we complete tailored environmental interventions in our patients’ homes and schools. We assess homes for asthma triggers while identifying potential financial or social barriers to fixing them. During these visits, we educate our patients about their medication, demonstrate safe cleaning methods, and help develop a personalized asthma action plan, which is tailored to the patients’ sensitivities, such as secondhand smoke or pet dander. For children in our program, we take it one step further and go into schools to educate their teachers, principals and maintenance staff (among others) on the basics of asthma and how it can affect student productivity and performance.

We know this hands-on approach works and produces dramatic results; among the patients we serve, emergency room visits have dropped by 45 percent and hospitalizations by 25 percent. By tracking medical records and administering questionnaires, we have also seen reductions in medication usage, decreased school absenteeism, and a general improved quality of life in both the children and adults we serve.
With limited resources and staff, our program continues to deliver comprehensive care by building partnerships within our community. We team with our local lead poisoning prevention program, Habitat for Humanity, the American Lung Association and others to share resources and holistically address asthma management.

If your program is interested in learning strategies on developing meaningful partnerships, I recommend attending EPA’s Communities in Action National Asthma Forum, June 9-10, 2011, in Washington, D.C. The Forum helped our program discover the power of collaboration and optimizing our resources, while delivering tailored environmental interventions that make a great impact.

About the author: Jan Roberts, RN, AE-C, has been with the Genesee County Asthma Network for 14 years and currently serves as the Asthma Disease Manager. The Genesee County Asthma Network is the recipient of EPA’s National Environmental Leadership Award in Asthma Management.

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