07 Sep

Asthma Prevention: Partners for Better Breathing

Environmental Health

Our Environmental Health program is partnering with area hospitals to reduce asthma-related emergency room visits.

Above: LSA’s community health workers measure air quality in apartments and help famlies understand how to control asthma triggers in their homes.

OneCity Health* is banking on a new partnership with LSA to decrease the number of child emergency room visits in Harlem due to asthma. Through the new collaboration, LSA community health workers will be embedded in Metropolitan Hospital, Harlem Hospital and Boriken Neighborhood Health Center. Their presence will make it easier for doctors to refer patients to our Environmental Health Services, introducing the program to a much larger population of children that can be helped by it.

Less Time in the Emergency Room
Emergency room visits come with a big price tag – and not just for the hospitals. When children miss school due to asthma-related ER visits, their school work can suffer. And missed work days for a child’s parent can threaten employment and family stability. To address the problem, LSA’s community health workers prevent costly ER visits by helping families remove mold, pests, dust and other toxic elements in their homes that may be triggering asthma symptoms in their children.

Until now, the program relied on doctors who knew about LSA to refer their patients. “We felt like we were missing a lot of people in the community that needed the service, but their doctors weren’t aware of us,” said Ray Lopez, Interim Director of Programs and Director of Environmental Health Services at LSA. Through the OneCity Health partnership, community health workers from LSA will have office hours at the hospitals and health center, making it easier for them to connect with patients who can benefit from our service.

“It’s a whole new thing to have our workers working side-by-side with doctors and nurses in the hospitals,” Lopez said. “Now we will get to kids who may be sicker, who may be living in more severe conditions than we are used to seeing. That helps us achieve our mission – to really find the people that need the service the most.”

In addition, Lopez said, the growing role of community health workers in healthcare creates an opportunity to advocate for positive change: “There’s going to be a bigger pool of workers visiting people for asthma in all these communities, not just in Harlem,” he said. “We have an opportunity to go beyond helping the individual. We can highlight patterns that we see and try to change policies that affect the community.”

He continued: “Before we were this tiny program in one corner of East Harlem, but now we have the potential for a larger platform to share and to lead. Our program has been in existence since the late 90s, so we have a lot of experience. We’re probably the longest running community health worker asthma program in the city. So we can lead in a way that we haven’t before.”

Currently, LSA is a lead partner in a study to evaluate methods of preventing and controlling mold and excess moisture in the homes of children with asthma. The study, in partnership with Columbia University and The New York Academy of Medicine, will help deepen our understanding of the best ways to prevent asthma-related emergencies and improve community health.

*OneCity Health is the NYC Health + Hospitals sponsored Performing Provider System (PPS).

This story appeared originally in our Spring 2017 Open Door Newsletter.