More than 6 million children in the United States have asthma, making it the most common childhood chronic condition in the country. Asthma particularly impacts low-income children and children of color due to many factors including exposure to environmental triggers and toxic stress. When managed, children with asthma lead healthy, active lives. However, uncontrolled asthma leads to increased emergency room visits and hospitalizations. Improving asthma management and reducing exposure to triggers among vulnerable populations have been proven to not only reduce the onset of asthma symptoms these interventions also result in significant savings in terms of health care costs.
One proven intervention to help control childhood asthma and reduce asthma disparities is the use of Community Health Workers (CHWs), frontline public health workers who are trusted members of, and deeply rooted in, the communities they serve. Families USA recently published a new report, Community Health Workers: Key Partners in Improving Children's Health and Eliminating Inequities, that offers specific examples of state-based initiatives that are promising or have demonstrated impact in improving health care and health outcomes for children of color.
The brief highlights two examples of the successful deployment of CHWs to address childhood asthma, one model in northern Manhattan and one in Washington State. These successful programs demonstrate how home-based interventions that utilize CHWs can be valuable in helping families manage their child’s asthma. In both examples, the CHWs work with families in respectful, culturally centered ways to educate caregivers on asthma prevention strategies and treatment options, including medication management. CHWs also have training to identify environmental triggers. These examples show how CHWs can help children and their families improve their long term health outcomes, and their overall quality of life and productivity.
As policymakers and advocates at the state and federal levels look for opportunities to accelerate prevention and improve the diagnosis, treatment, and long-term management of childhood asthma, CHWs should continue to be integrated into these efforts to help address serious childhood asthma disparities.