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Wellness Center

Creating asthma champions

New program educates kids on asthma management

Kids with asthma have to think about avoiding a lot of little things.

House dust, pet dander, exercise and even extreme emotions of laughing or crying can trigger asthma attacks.

For those with severe asthma, like 12-year-old Kiana Lewis, an attack can mean a trip to the emergency room just to get her breathing under control.

“Kiana has bad asthma,” said her mom, Jen Lewis. “We need outside help to get it under control.”

Kiana was selected as one of the first members of a pilot program at St. Charles Health System called Asthma Champions. The program focuses on kids with severe asthma and their parents and aims to provide in-depth education and resources on how to best manage the disease.

“We looked at the highest cost pediatric populations and found that asthma was third,” said Julia Lodge, pediatric nurse navigator for St. Charles. “We felt we could impact the health of the population by starting this program.”

Over the past five years in Central Oregon, more than $2.4 million was spent annually on pediatric asthma visits within the health system, Lodge said. By teaching kids and families about asthma triggers, the importance of daily medication monitoring and helping them with access to tools, Lodge hopes to reduce that number.

Participants in the five-week class have been enrolled in a free smartphone app and given Bluetooth caps for their inhalers that track each time a medication is used throughout the day. The information goes to the app and allows parents to monitor inhaler use, track trends and help kids understand their asthma triggers.

“When she’s at school, I can’t monitor what she’s doing,” Lewis said of Kiana. “The app will tell us when she took her inhalers and how many she took.”

If she sees a trend that Kiana is always using her inhaler after she attends physical education classes, for example, Lewis can work with the school on solutions. The app also syncs with an online portal that allows Lodge to monitor medication use. She can create reports for the kids’ primary care providers.

Along with the classes and the app, Lodge meets with parents and kids in one-on-one sessions to create individual care plans. A big part of the program, Lodge said, is empowering kids to take ownership of their health and to better understand what’s going on inside their lungs. It can be hard to remember to use an inhaler every day as a preventive measure when attacks aren’t happening.

“My goal is that these kids are able to take ownership and manage their asthma and we’ll hopefully see an increase in following their Asthma Action Plan,” Lodge said. “I want the kids to have an increased quality of life. I want them to do what they want to do and the activities they want to compete in.”

For more information on the Asthma Champions program, contact Julia Lodge at jmlodge@stcharleshealthcare.org.