HCN News & Notes

Collaboration Receives $750,000 Grant to Address Asthma

 SPRINGFIELD   After a highly competitive review process, the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission (HPC) as part of their SHIFT-Care Challenge has awarded Baystate Health Care Alliance/BeHealthy Partnership ACO a $750,000 grant to expand the Springfield Healthy Homes Asthma Program designed to improve the health and quality of life for people with asthma.

The HPC’s SHIFT-Care Challenge grant opportunity is designed to foster innovative care delivery models in Massachusetts that shift the unnecessary delivery of care of complex patients from acute care hospitals to more economical, patient-centered, community-based settings. Nearly $10 million was awarded to 15 innovative care delivery transformation proposals from Massachusetts health care providers. The HPC sought models that had strong organizational leadership, sustainability, and importantly, a notable impact. An innovative collaboration, the Springfield Healthy Homes Asthma Program brings together healthcare and community partners to address two of the root causes of poor asthma outcomes—unhealthy homes and lack of patient education.

In the first collaboration of its kind in Massachusetts, two Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) — BeHealthy Partnership and MercyHealth ACO — will join together with community organizations from the greater Springfield area to refer patients for the Springfield Healthy Homes Asthma Program’s home education and remediation service.

Other partners include the University of Massachusetts Medical School — Baystate, Public Health Institute of Western MassachusettsPioneer Valley Asthma CoalitionBaystate Medical Center’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation DepartmentRevitalize CDC, City of Springfield Office of HousingSpringfield Partners for Community Action, and Green & Healthy Homes Initiative

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recently named the Springfield area as the #1 asthma capital, the most challenging place to live with asthma. The concerning designation was based on the high rates of asthma prevalence and emergency department visits in the area. Nearly one in five school children (18{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5}) and adults (17{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5}) in Springfield have asthma, more than double the national rates. According to figures from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH), the Springfield area has almost triple the emergency room visit rate (1,483 per 100,000) as the state average (572 per 100,000). In the local area, there are significant racial and ethnic disparities in asthma. Latinos and blacks experience asthma emergency room visit rates much higher than whites in Springfield, with rates 4.1 and 2.0 times greater than whites, respectively.

“Across the United States, asthma accounts for more than 14 million physician visits, more than 1.7 million emergency room visits, and over 400,000 hospitalizations each year; we are spending over $50 billion on asthma medical costs alone each year and the highest utilization is in pre-school children. This makes asthma a public health crisis,” said Dr. Nico Vehse, chief, Pediatric Pulmonology at Baystate Children’s Hospital and a member of the Pioneer Valley Asthma Coalition steering committee.

The Health Policy Commission grant will fund the expansion of the Springfield Healthy Homes Asthma pilot program, coordinated by the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts, and will serve 150 families with home-based asthma education and self-management support, as well as home assessment and repair for conditions that contribute to asthma flare-ups. Patients cared for by the two ACOs, who have been hospitalized or have had multiple emergency room visits in the last year for asthma, are eligible for the services.

The grant will allow Baystate’s Pulmonary Rehabilitation Department to hire two community health workers who will conduct home visits and provide asthma education to individuals and families enrolled in the program. Revitalize CDC will be the lead housing service provider, with additional services from the City of Springfield’s Office of Housing and Springfield Partners for Community Action. As part of the 18-month project, patients will receive three to four home visits involving asthma self-management education, such as proper use of medications and home assessment and remediation services for any asthma triggers identified. In addition, families will also receive supplies such as anti-allergen pillows, mattress protectors, and green cleaning kits. 

“This collaborative brings together partners from health and housing sectors that have been working together for years, but not had significant funding to do something at a broader level. The new funding is key to our collaboration to implement an evidence-based intervention that will address asthma, a serious problem in our area,” said Jessica Collins, executive director, Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts. For more information, contact the Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts at (413) 794-7600.

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