Faced with a rash of children dying from asthma in Augusta, people from health care, public health and the schools got together to form the CSRA Asthma Coalition, and the deaths stopped.
Now, five years later, the group is still working to confront asthma, and some of its members got a big boost Thursday from Georgia Health Sciences University.
The GHSU Institute of Public and Preventive Health announced its inaugural Community Health Partnership Grants, which pair community groups addressing specific health problems with GHSU researchers. Seven community projects received grants totaling $330,000.
“The grants are indeed an investment in our community, in our university and in the state of Georgia,” GHSU President Ricardo Azziz said.
From 2006 to 2008, at least 10 children died from asthma in Augusta during a 20-month period, and hospitalizations from asthma were very high, prompting a number of groups to form the coalition. One result was an increased effort to get children on Medicaid into a higher level of case management, but those efforts also have issues because of communication problems and missed appointments, said Clifton Dennis, the chairman of the asthma coalition and an asthma educator at the Medical College of Georgia Children’s Medical Center.
“They have a lot of issues with follow-up,” he said.
Another key effort was to ensure that each child has an Asthma Action Plan that details a treatment regimen. The problem is getting both the provider and the patient families more engaged in the treatment plan and fostering better communication, said Dr. Pavani Rangachari, of GHSU, who is working with the asthma group.
“Basically we’re looking to come up with an educational intervention for providers to enable patient engagement,” she said. “And getting feedback from patients.”
Said Susan Dillard, the school nurse supervisor for Richmond County School System, “Education is the big thing. One of the ways the schools contribute is, we keep track of the number of asthma visits, whether they in fact have medications at school or an asthma action plan in place. And we get them where they need to be.”
Many of the children who died were on steroids to help manage their asthma, which can also put youngsters at higher risk of an exacerbated attack. Such children will also get special attention, Dennis said.
“Those are probably the patients we have to focus more on because they are the ones that are at the highest risk of the most severe asthma,” he said.