The University Record, February 12, 2001

School of Public Health teams with foundation to combat pediatric asthma

By Kate Kellogg
News and Information Services

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has joined with the School of Public Health (SPH) to help communities throughout the country combat the rising tide of asthma among children.

The Foundation’s Allies Against Asthma program has awarded grants of about $150,000 each to eight communities to develop models that improve access to and the quality of clinical care, reduce asthma symptoms, and foster patient and community education.

The eight coalitions, based in Albuquerque/Bernalillo County, N.M.; Hampton Roads, Va.; Long Beach, Calif.; Milwaukee, Wis.; Philadelphia, Pa.; Seattle/King County, Wash.; Washington, D.C.; and San Juan, Puerto Rico, will be eligible for three-year implementation grants of up to $1.35 million.

The key to this program “is to tackle the problem of asthma through coalitions that integrate clinical, environmental and community-derived approaches,” said Noreen M. Clark, program director and SPH dean. “We have to put together pieces of a puzzle. No one approach will solve the problem. Coalitions can fit strategies together and learn how to reduce the impact of asthma on large numbers of children and teen-agers,” added Clark, who also is the Marshall H. Becker Collegiate Professor of Public Health.

Seth Emont, senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said, “Asthma rates are rising dramatically in this country, especially among children and especially in poor and urban minority communities. Allies Against Asthma will help build community-based partnerships among different public and private agencies to mobilize resources for asthma control.”

The coalitions—which include clinics, hospitals, public health agencies, health care plans, schools, parents, child care providers, housing and environmental organizations, researchers, and public health agencies—will combine clinical and public health approaches to control asthma in their communities.

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways, affecting more than 14.9 million Americans, including an estimated 5 million children. Rates in children have increased 92 percent during the past decade. The primary aims of the Allies Against Asthma program are: to enhance the quality of life of children with asthma; to reduce hospital admissions, emergency room visits and the number of missed school days by children with asthma; and to develop a sustainable strategy for asthma management within communities.

If the partnerships succeed, the foundation anticipates replicating the Allies Against Asthma approach for mobilizing community resources to fight other chronic health conditions.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, based in Princeton, N.J., is the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care. It concentrates its grant-making in three goal areas: to assure that all Americans have access to basic health care at reasonable cost; to improve care and support for people with chronic health conditions; and to reduce the personal, social and economic harm caused by substance abuse.