Since 2011, the NICHD has been working with the Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) Sorority, Inc. to lead the Asthma Prevention and Management Initiative, a series of nationwide asthma education, training, and outreach activities. The program leverages NIH’s scientific expertise and AKA’s extensive network of chapters to teach families across the country about proper management of childhood asthma.
This initiative has served as the signature health program for the current AKA international president, Carolyn House Stewart, during her 2010–2014 term. The culmination of the initiative will take place at the 66th AKA International Conference this month with workshops and a presentation of awards to the AKA chapters who found innovative ways to implement the program.
Asthma affects more than 25 million people in the United States, including nearly 7 million children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rates of asthma among adults and children have grown substantially over the past 10 years and are expected to continue to rise.
Like many other chronic illnesses, asthma affects some groups more than others. For example, children of color and children from low-income homes have higher rates of asthma—and are affected more severely, with higher rates of hospitalization and death.
Unfortunately, there is no way to cure this disease, but proper management and treatment help people live productive, active lives. This includes using all medication as directed by a physician and avoiding triggers like allergens, cigarette smoke, and air pollution. Developing a personalized asthma action plan with a physician can also help.
As part of the NICHD-AKA asthma education program, mentors provide families with support, links to resources, and monthly educational messages. To date, 143 AKA chapters have implemented the program, educating more than 9,000 parents and children. To test the program’s effectiveness, volunteers record children’s asthma symptoms at the beginning of the program and at its end, 6 months later, along with caregivers’ self-reported ability to manage asthma symptoms and triggers.
Many chapters have been successful in educating children about how to manage their asthma symptoms and increasing caregivers’ confidence in their ability to help. One program in Columbus, Ohio, where 15% of children in the surrounding county are affected by asthma, successfully integrated the program into the asthma outreach efforts of a local children’s hospital.
While the NICHD-AKA partnership reaches its formal end this summer, the NICHD continues to support asthma research particularly to learn more about its causes and consequences from a child development perspective, and about effective ways to manage the disease in youth and pregnant women. For more information, see some of these recent publications:
Through innovative partnerships and research programs, the NICHD aims to curb health disparities like those related to asthma. Working with strong partners and at-risk communities is key to accomplishing this goal.
Originally Posted: July 10, 2014
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