Baystate Health, Pioneer Valley Asthma Coalition to study asthma triggers in homes (MassLive)

By Anne-Gerard Flynn

SPRINGFIELD - Asthma can be made worse by a home friendly to such allergens as molds, something a national project involving Baystate Health and the Pioneer Valley Asthma Coalition is about to study with hopes to offer affected individuals environmental solutions in the near future.

"We are very excited. This is a very innovative project," said PVAC manager Sarita Hudson, noting that the estimated 18 percent of adults, and 20 percent of school children said to suffer with asthma in Springfield puts the city at a "very high rate" for the disease.

PVAC is part of Partners for Healthier Community. PVAC, as well as Baystate Health, have been involved in other collaborative efforts to address the need for better education about asthma in terms of its treatment, causes and prevention. Asthma is a chronic disease that causes the airways to become inflamed and narrow, making it difficult to breathe. Inflamed airways can become further irritated by such common substances as mold and pollen as well as cigarette smoke.

PVAC was selected by the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative, through a national competition, and Baystate Health chosen as its regional partner to study recommended interventions to eliminate asthma triggers in the home, along with resident education. The intervention models, which come with funding, are part of the Pay for Success Program of the Corporation for National and Community Service's Social Innovation Fund. A grant was made from the fund to the initiative that collaborates with the Calvert Foundation to provide technical support to five regional projects. The projects are based on work being done in Baltimore through a partnership with the initiative, the foundation and Johns Hopkins Hospital and Healthcare System. The focus on home interventions for asthma that prove beneficial for both provider and patient is funded through private investment, and is designed to cut the costs of health care as well as reduce the time loss by those with asthma from work or school.

"This program is going to help us figure out how providing home repairs to families can help them avoid hospitalizations and avoid ER visits," Hudson said. "Springfield really has old housing stock, so there are a lot of problems in homes that can trigger asthma if a house is not in good repair."

Hudson said the intent of the feasibility study, that will look at costs and other factors, is to have a project ready to implement in a year's time, so that doctors may refer asthma patients for any needed home intervention to the PVAC for help.