Richmond has been designated as the most challenging place in the U.S. to live with asthma, but CHoR has been on a mission to help children in this ‘asthma capital’ breathe easier. Funding from Children’s Hospital Foundation made Dr. Michael Schechter’s dream of a community asthma program a reality. The launch of the You Can Control Asthma Now program in 2015 established comprehensive and coordinated asthma care for children and families in urban Richmond and the surrounding areas. Dr. Schechter and the UCAN team are joined by other professionals across the VCU campuses dedicated to similar efforts.
Dr. Schechter is a co-investigator alongside principal investigator Robin S. Everhart, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the VCU Department of Psychology, on a six-year, $4.73 million grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health. Their large-scale initiative is called “RVA Breathes: A Richmond City Collaboration to Reduce Pediatric Asthma Disparities.”
The grant funds a community-based clinical trial designed to coordinate asthma care for elementary school aged children, factoring in their family, home, community and medical services. The study employs interventions that have been proven effective in other cities, but were customized to address the barriers and challenges faced by urban Richmond families of children with asthma. Children will participate for one year and outcomes will be assessed to determine the program’s impact. Partnerships with Richmond area organizations will help ensure the long-term sustainability of the program and its findings.
Drs. Everhart and Schechter have been collaborating with faculty and staff in departments throughout the university and health system, as well as partners in the community such as Richmond Public Schools, the Institute for Public Health Innovation and the Richmond City Health District. Richmond parents and children with asthma have also provided instrumental input throughout the needs assessment process and creation of RVA Breathes. These groups will continue to be partners throughout the project.
“Pediatric asthma is manageable, but it is not curable,” said Everhart. “Research has shown that children living in urban centers, such as Richmond, experience worse asthma outcomes. This grant will provide a comprehensive, community-based asthma care program for those children at highest risk for poor asthma outcomes.”
“Dr. Everhart is already an integral member of CHoR’s cystic fibrosis clinical and research program and now we are working together on another important area of pulmonary medicine. I have been thrilled to work with her and the rest of the research team in developing this asthma project,” added Dr. Schechter. “Its successful implementation will be life-changing for the children of Richmond and will complement the care we provide for children and families in the UCAN program.”
This team of experts is determined to help children control their asthma, achieve successful outcomes and participate in the activities they love rather than sitting on the sidelines or visiting the emergency room.
“The Children’s Hospital Foundation funding of the UCAN program was the essential starting point for a vision of what I hope will become an asthma center of excellence, combining superb clinical care with efforts to make a significant public health impact in Central Virginia, along with the development of a world-class basic, translational and clinical research program and educational resource for health care professionals with a focus on asthma,” concluded Schechter.