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On World Asthma Day (May 2, 2023), the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) announces new health equity program sites as part of AAFA’s Health Equity Advancement and Leadership (HEAL) initiative. Funding for new community-based interventions in New York and Alabama will add to AAFA’s current health equity program sites in Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, and St. Louis.

The Value of Local Asthma and Allergy Programs

Community programs can greatly benefit people with asthma. AAFA is committed to drastically reducing health disparities in communities with the heaviest asthma and allergy burden. The overall goal of HEAL is to reduce asthma deaths and hospital stays among high-risk groups by working with local community programs and supporting local community health workers (CHWs).

CHWs that work for these asthma programs are key to reaching local people with asthma and allergies. CHWs are frontline public health workers who understand their communities. They provide health education and address other social needs of the people they serve.

In New York City, AIRnyc will be the first program to receive HEAL funding in 2023. AIRnyc is a community-based organization that has worked for more than 20 years to develop its CHW program.

“The mission of the AIRnyc community health worker care model is to meet people where they live to connect families to care and build health equity at the individual, family, and community levels.” - Lola Simpson, CEO of AIRnyc

AIRnyc will develop a unique asthma care program to help the Hispanic population in the Bronx and surrounding areas. In several high-poverty neighborhoods of the South Bronx—where the majority of residents are Hispanic or Black—rates of asthma deaths and burden are consistently higher than the rest of New York City.

Mariluz Garcia has been a CHW for 20 years and has worked for AIRnyc for eight years. In her role as a CHW, she interviews families to gather information on their asthma and social and environmental issues that can affect their care. Households often need help getting medicine and removing pests, mold, and other triggers in the home.

Mariluz Garcia, a community health worker with AIRnyc

Mariluz Garcia, a community health worker with AIRnyc

Jaylen Labrew has received help from AIRnyc. She is a 6-year-old living with asthma, eczema, and autism. Mariluz helped Jaylen’s mother get a prescription for her asthma treatments and reduce indoor asthma triggers in their home.

Mariluz helped Jaylen’s family get a water leak fixed that was creating indoor mold. She also gave them referrals for Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Mariluz also shared tips on how to clean to reduce asthma triggers without harsh chemicals.

“Connecting patients with services and resources is the most rewarding aspect of the job,” said Mariluz. “Our work makes a difference, one patient at a time.”

In addition to New York City, the new round of HEAL funding will support a new program in Alabama. This program will use a virtual model for asthma management home visits and asthma education. The program will focus on rural health disparities by working with schools, local and state departments of health, and other state-based organizations and partners.

The second year of AAFA’s HEAL program is supported by Amgen, AstraZeneca, Genentech, Sanofi, and Regeneron.

“Amgen’s mission is to serve patients, and we believe everyone – no matter where they live – should have the best opportunity for good health outcomes. Through a community-based approach, the HEAL program provides vulnerable communities with access to personalized care and resources that can positively impact people living with asthma for years to come. Together with AAFA, we’re aiming to close the gap in equity for asthma patients.” - Ponda Motsepe-Ditshego, Vice President and Therapeutic Area Head of Global Medical, Inflammation and Representation in Clinical Research at Amgen.

Learn more about the HEAL program and AAFA’s health equity work.

How Can You Help Us Achieve Health Equity?

The best way to achieve health equity is by working together. Everyone – from people with asthma to policymakers and the health care industry – can be a part of building programs that make a lasting difference for people, families, and communities impacted by asthma.

Sign up for AAFA’s community to stay up to date about the following opportunities to get involved:

  • Advocate for people affected by asthma disparities
  • Participate in patient-centered research and clinical trials
  • Share asthma information with your family, friends, and local community

You can also donate to support AAFA’s mission to create real and lasting change.


Images (1)
  • Mariluz Garcia, a community health worker with AIRnyc: Mariluz Garcia, a community health worker with AIRnyc

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