Asthma education program in South Texas shown to improve health outcomes

Evaluation of the Healthy South Texas asthma program suggests participation reduced health disparities among children with asthma in a low-income community
January 11, 2022

Chronic diseases like asthma affect the health and quality of life of millions of people in the United States. These effects are even more profound in communities with lower incomes and access to quality health care. Education programs can help improve health and quality of life outcomes; however, research on the effects of these programs in some populations, such as the predominantly Hispanic communities in South Texas, is relatively scarce.

A recent study published in the journal BMC Pediatrics analyzed an asthma education program delivered to children and families living on the Texas-Mexico border. Genny Carrillo, MD, ScD, associate professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the Texas A&M University School of Public Health, and fellow researchers from the School of Public Health, Houston Methodist Hospital and South Texas College, used a well-established model to gauge the effectiveness of asthma education in Hidalgo County, Texas, between 2015 and 2020.

Carrillo and colleagues used a tool called the Reach, Effectiveness, Adoption, Implementation and Maintenance (RE-AIM) planning and evaluation framework to measure different aspects of a public health intervention known as the Healthy South Texas Program, a program aimed at low-income families in urban and rural areas of Hidalgo County, an area with relatively high poverty rate and low levels of health insurance coverage.

The Healthy South Texas Program recruited families of children with asthma and provided those families with education on asthma symptoms, identification of triggers and medication management as well as tips on creating healthy indoor environments such as keeping homes clean, dry and free of contaminants like tobacco smoke. Families were visited by community health workers who provided education and allergen-proof mattress covers and pillowcases and followed up on the initial visit after three, six and nine to 12 months. Additionally, families completed surveys on health outcomes, behavior and asthma severity during the follow-up visits.

Researchers found significant improvements in asthma-related symptoms during the intervention. They also observed increased school and family activities for children with asthma as well as improved emotional health in those families. Additionally, asthma knowledge among families in the intervention increased and there were notable improvements in home environments.

“Expansion and further development of interventions like the Healthy South Texas Program can help reduce the negative effects of asthma, and the RE-AIM framework holds promise as a way to evaluate expanded programs in the future,” Carrillo said.

– by George Hale

— Rae Lynn Mitchell

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