According to the Centers for Disease Control, asthma affects some 20 million Americans and is the most common chronic disease of childhood, affecting an estimated 6 million children. Asthma prevalence rates have been increasing for all age groups. Children, however, continue to have the highest rates. Childhood asthma prevalence in the U.S. has nearly doubled from 3.6% in 1980 to 7.1% in 2002-2004. Although in the general population of school children asthma prevalence ranges from 6-8%, in asthma hotspots– low-income, minority neighborhoods– prevalence two to three times this number has been reported. In the past decade there have been significant advances in asthma management that allow most people with asthma to live active and healthy lives. Yet, many children continue to suffer with asthma due to a complex set of factors.
From 2000 to 2007, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supported Allies Against Asthma, a national program of coalition development and action designed to change policies and practices regarding asthma management in low-income communities of color across the United States. The National Program Office (NPO) at the Center for Managing Chronic Disease administered the program, provided direction and technical assistance to the funded communities, and coordinated a national cross-site evaluation. Additional support for the evaluation and dissemination activities was provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Allies coalitions in 7 regions of the United States participated in the project and undertook efforts to initiate community-wide changes designed to affect thousands of children with asthma such as improved access to and quality of medical services, education, family and community support, and environmental and policy initiatives. Each coalition brought together diverse groups to address issues of mutual interest, widen spheres of influence, facilitate creativity and innovation in programs and services, and pool resources to address issues system-wide.
Results of the evaluation conducted by CMCD investigators showed that coalitions can achieve important policy and system changes that have the potential to affect large numbers of residents with asthma in low-income neighborhoods of color. A total of 89 policy and system changes were achieved. A list of policy changes by topic is available at Allies Against Asthma Policy Changes. Allies children experienced fewer asthma symptoms than comparison children. In addition, Allies parents felt less helpless, frightened, and angry about their child’s asthma.
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Asthma & Allergies, Community