Local Solutions and Partnerships are Key to Fighting Asthma, Childhood’s #1 Chronic Disease

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Health

By: Mike Telesky, Vice President, UnitedHealthcare of Illinois, and ALA board member

Kristen Young, executive director, ALA in Greater Chicago

Edited by Lawndale Bilingual Newspaper

For the more than 24 million Americans with asthma – including 317,000 adults and more than 121,000 children in Chicago – simply taking a single breath can be a struggle. This is particularly troubling for children, for whom asthma is the leading chronic disease. Asthma is the top reason for missed school days, making the disease more than just a health issue, but one that affects school achievement and, ultimately, quality of life in later years. There are crucial initiatives around the world, such as educational workshops, charity runs and rides, and awareness campaigns that help asthma sufferers, drive much-needed attention and support, and help reduce environmental asthma attack triggers, such as smoking and air pollution.

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Health

However, we need to do more to address this challenge on the local level for our communities and our neighbors who suffer from asthma. Thus, the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest (ALAUM) and United Health Foundation have launched Partners for Asthma Action, which focuses on improving the quality of asthma care. The project identifies primary care clinics – particularly in underserved communities – and provides mentoring, training and technical assistance to strengthen the overall level of care given to asthma sufferers. With support from a $2 million, three-year partnership grant from United Health Foundation, ALAUM is implementing Partners for Asthma Action in 90 clinics throughout Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, St. Louis and Chicago with the aim of improving the quality of life for more than 180,000 children in these areas who live with asthma. We are already seeing how the program is helping to change the lives of Chicago children who suffer from asthma.

Chicago’s asthma hospitalization rate has consistently been higher than the national average. To help overturn this trend, we identified eight primary care clinics at Greater Chicago area-school campuses to participate in Partners for Asthma Action and ensure quality, guidelines-based care for children with asthma. In the first year of the project, over 200 health care professionals have received asthma guidelines and training in spirometry – the only objective test that can diagnose asthma. In addition, the American Lung Association (ALA) is partnering with Chicago schools to implement Kickin’ Asthma, a proven asthma self-management program for high-school juniors and seniors. Students meet weekly for a month to learn the tools they need to manage asthma as they transition into adulthood, including recognizing symptoms, how and when to take medications and how to refill necessary prescriptions

May is Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. Now is a fitting time for our community to do everything we can do fight a disease that affects so many of our children.

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