When it comes to asthma, children living in poverty are doubly disadvantaged: they are more likely to suffer from the disease and less likely to ever see an asthma specialist to help manage their condition.
In the hopes of combating these disparities, researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) are launching a new, $3.6 million study in partnership with the Rochester City School District (RCSD) that aims to help children with chronic, persistent asthma receive specialized care: a combination of school-based treatment and telemedicine visits with asthma specialists. Asthma affects 1 in 10 children in the United States, making it the most common chronic disease of childhood.
The study continues a nearly two decades-long partnership between URMC researchers and the RCSD, which have worked together to provide asthma care and evaluate outcomes for Rochester children. Past approaches have included both school-based preventive medicine delivery and telemedicine visits.
The new study expands on these techniques and specifically targets children ages 4-12 with moderate to severe asthma, who often require a specialist to optimally manage their condition in addition to the child’s primary care provider. Once enrolled, these youths will be linked to specialist asthma providers in the community for three appointments: an evaluation and two follow-ups. The appointments will be set up using telemedicine at school to link child and provider, which reduces the burden on the family.
“We know that children with more severe asthma often need additional care, but we also know that it can be really hard for families to take time off work, arrange transportation, and so forth in order to bring their child in to see an asthma specialist,” said Jill Halterman, M.D., MPH, professor of Pediatrics at URMC and the study’s lead researcher.
After a child is assessed and a treatment plan is established, school nurses will administer the child’s daily preventive asthma medication, which Halterman’s past research has shown to be effective in helping a child manage their symptoms. Meanwhile, the pediatric asthma specialist will coordinate with the child’s primary care provider to ensure proper continuing care.
“This program is designed to reduce disparities in care, and if it proves effective, it’s our hope that this can be used as a model for other programs nationally,” said Halterman.
The five-year study will enroll 360 children through RCSD and local pediatricians’ offices. The research is funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a part of the National Institutes of Health.