Wheezing and coughing fits. Shortness of breath. Tightness in the chest. These symptoms of asthma can halt adults in their tracks. For children who suffer an attack—particularly those with poorly controlled asthma—it can be scary. It can also mean they aren’t able to run and play and enjoy being a kid, or go to school.
These children in Worcester are getting the help they need thanks to UMass Memorial Medical Center’s award-winning Pediatric Asthma Program—and because of the generosity of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Eastern New England, which gave $20,000 in February 2017 to support the program.
The benefits of this program are unmistakable. After its first year, annual emergency department visits among 64 pediatric patients who received asthma medications at school declined from 93 visits to 37. Absenteeism among nine of those children fell from 127 total days missed to 78.
“The lives of these children and their families are better because of this program,” said Monica Lowell, vice president of community relations at UMass Memorial Health Care. “In supporting it, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Eastern New England has become a vital partner in our efforts to improve the health of our community. We are extremely grateful for such generosity.”
How does the program work? When a clinician or school nurse identifies a child as high-risk asthmatic, a specially trained community health worker is notified. That community health worker visits the child’s home to talk about asthma triggers and about medications (what to take, when to take it and how). If any other resources are needed by the family, the community health worker connects them with those, too.
The program is carried out in all Worcester Public Schools, the Worcester Head Start program and through 11 community partners. UMass Memorial’s Pediatric Pulmonology Department provides training to school nurses and works closely with school staff to ensure high-risk children are receiving medications at school.
Photo, from left: Karen McEachern, Executive Director, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Eastern New England; Patrick Muldoon, President, UMass Memorial Medical Center; Monica Lowell, Vice President, Community Benefits UMass Memorial; Victoria Ramos, Community Health Worker for Pediatric Asthma Program; Paula Wright, Board President, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Eastern New England; Ronald McDonald; Ted Kremer, MD, Division Chief, Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine UMass Memorial; Kim Reckert, Special Projects Coordinator, Community Benefits UMass Memorial