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De Blasio Administration Launches Asthma-Free Bronx, First-of-its-Kind Program Addressing Pediatric Asthma

July 31, 2019

Asthma-Free Bronx aims to reduce asthma-related emergency room visits to three of the City’s public hospitals

NEW YORK — The de Blasio Administration announced today the launch of Asthma-Free Bronx, the City’s first program to address pediatric asthma in a comprehensive, coordinated manner between a child’s home, school and health providers. The program, run by the NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, NYC Health + Hospitals, and the NYC Department of Education, will provide a suite of personalized services to every child seen in the emergency department or hospitalized at any of the City’s three Bronx public hospitals due to an asthma attack. The three hospitals currently serve more than 2,500 children for an asthma exacerbation yearly.

“Families in the Bronx should not worry about their kid’s next asthma attack,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “As a city, we are stepping up to ensure kids have access to a comprehensive program that provides them with the resources and education they need to control their chronic condition and live healthy lives.”

“Too many families in the Bronx live in fear of their child’s next asthma attack, which is emotionally taxing and compromises their overall physical health,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray. “This new program will connect families in our city to the treatment and holistic care their children need to manage their asthma and be healthy.”

“This new health initiative is the latest evidence of what can be accomplished when we successfully leverage the power of our local Health Department, health care delivery and public school systems to improve the health of New Yorkers.” said Dr. Herminia Palacio, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services. “Through Asthma-Free Bronx, families will learn to manage their children’s asthma, avoiding unnecessary ED visits and hospitalizations; this will go a long way in closing the Bronx pediatric asthma racial disparity gap.”

Asthma-Free Bronx will help coordinate key services between the hospital and other agencies by stationing social workers in all three NYC Health + Hospitals’ Bronx acute care centers. These social workers will be responsible for identifying children who are seen in the ED for asthma exacerbation, and enrolling them into the Asthma-Free Bronx program. Social workers will also schedule a follow-up visit with a primary care provider within two weeks, notify the child’s school nurse, and refer them to the American Lung Association’s Open Airways for Schools program, which educates children about the condition and empowers them to manage their asthma. The program will also facilitate the seamless sharing of information between providers to better serve families, and will provide home inspections to identify allergens and provide in-home asthma education to the family of all kids enrolled in Asthma-Free Bronx. Additionally, the program aims to increase the number of schools in the Bronx with the Open Airways curriculum.

The program will start at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln in September and will be fully implemented at all Bronx NYC Health + Hospitals by November. The City will invest $2 million in FY 20 for this program, and double the funding for future years.

Asthma-Free Bronx will improve asthma outcomes in the Bronx among children ages 5 to 17 by reducing asthma-related visits to the emergency room by 50 percent and asthma-related hospitalizations by 30 percent in the three public hospitals, both within five years. Black and Latino communities endure the highest burden of preventable emergency department visits and hospitalizations, so achieving a reduction in childhood asthma rates will make significant strides towards closing racial health disparities in the Bronx. Each year, approximately 20,000 children in New York City end up in the emergency department or are hospitalized due to asthma; about 40 percent of these children live in the Bronx. NYC Health + Hospitals’ three acute care facilities serve about one-third of all Bronx kids with asthma exacerbations.

Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said, “As a pediatrician I have seen how dangerous, as well as how treatable, asthma can be. Asthma-Free NYC will enable us to reach children at home, in school and in their neighborhoods to lead healthier lives.”

“When we work together to meet the needs of the whole child, our children succeed, our schools succeed, and our City succeeds. I’m excited to be part of this innovative partnership to better serve our Bronx children and families, and I thank Mayor de Blasio, DOHMH, and NYC Health + Hospitals for their leadership and collaboration in this exciting, first-of-its-kind program,” said Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza.

“We are excited to be partnering with the Mayor and NYC DOHMH to help address pediatric asthma in the Bronx,” said Dr. Ted Long, Vice President for Ambulatory Care at NYC Health + Hospitals. “Chronic diseases, such as asthma, require comprehensive, coordinated care, and so working with schools, health providers and others in a child’s day-to-day life will ensure they’re able to better manage their asthma and stay out of the hospital.”

Other NYC Health + Hospitals facilities will have the opportunity to adapt the program to meet their pediatric patients’ needs as success of the program is demonstrated in the Bronx.

The City’s three public hospitals in the Bronx are:

  • NYC Health + Hospitals/Jacobi
  • NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln
  • NYC Health + Hospitals/North Central Bronx

“For many children and families, this surveillance of pediatric asthma and asthma exacerbation and Asthma-Free Bronx partnership will be a valuable resource for the growth and development of young and susceptible patients,” said Rep. Adriano Espaillat. “I am glad to see this investment and marshaling of public health resources to close the racial health disparities that persist in communities of color by reaching children and families in school-based settings. My hope is that this continuum of care will continue into workplaces and homes and applaud the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and NYC Health + Hospitals for their commitment to the needs of our Bronx community.”

“With one of the highest asthma rates in the country, I can’t think of a better place in New York City to launch the Asthma-Free NYC program than the Bronx. This innovative health care initiative will help ensure children with asthma have easy access to the comprehensive treatment they need to successfully confront and live with this condition and other respiratory illnesses. I applaud the de Blasio Administration for tackling an issue that has particularly afflicted the Bronx and other areas of New York City,” said Rep. José E. Serrano.

“In the Bronx we're facing a major public health crisis where asthma death rates are three times higher than the rest of the United States. While we've taken steps at the state level to address the environmental causes of asthma with the passage of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, it is critical that children and their parents have access to the necessary tools and education for safely managing the condition. I thank Mayor Bill de Blasio, the NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, and NYC Health + Hospitals for installing the first City program to holistically address pediatric asthma in the Bronx – I look forward to supporting the success of Asthma-Free NYC and extending its reach throughout my district,” said State Senator Alessandra Biaggi.

“Tens of thousands of children in the Bronx suffer from asthma. While asthma can be frightening and even deadly, the right doctors and care can help patients and their families manage the illness.  The new Asthma-Free Bronx program will deliver a more seamless and coordinated approach to caring for the Bronx’s children – and ensure they can live a long healthy life, without asthma standing in their way,” said Michael Seilback, National Assistant Vice President of the American Lung Association.

“We applaud the commitment of funds to help families dealing with asthma,” said Shoshanah Brown, CEO of AIRnyc. “We must invest in the health of Bronx families and asthma is the place to begin.” Based in the Bronx, AIRnyc meets people where they live to improve health, connect families to social care and build health equity at the community level.

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