Around 4.8 million children under the age of 18 have asthma.1 In asthma – like in many health conditions – disparities exist. Non-Hispanic Black children are more than two times more likely to have asthma compared to non-Hispanic white children.1 Shade Farri, MD, MPH, is working to overcome these disparities through her personal practice, various programs, and advocacy.
We recently spoke with Dr. Farri to learn more about her work and how she is working to reduce asthma disparities.
About Shade Farri, MD, MPH
Dr. Shade Farri is a pediatric pulmonologist, a health educator, and a passionate advocate for community health.
She provides clinical care for children with asthma in inner-city and underserved communities, working with local community-based organizations to design, support, and build programs that improve health outcomes. She has led many multi-partner community programs for people with chronic diseases. One such recent program is a clinically integrated school asthma program that led to decreased hospitalizations and fewer missed school days in an inner-city community.
She serves as the medical advisor and consultant at AIRnyc where she provides clinical strategy for AIRnyc’s work – a community health worker model aimed at improving equity in health care access and social care for underserved residents of New York City.
Dr. Farri also serves on the board of Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), the leading patient organization dedicated to saving lives and reducing the burden of disease for people with asthma and allergies through support, advocacy, education, and research.
She obtained her medical degree from Nigeria, completed her pediatric residency training at BronxCare, and did her fellowship training at New York Medical College. She holds a Master of Public Health from Columbia University.
Dr. Farri has been working with children with asthma since her residency in the emergency department at BronxCare. It was there she realized improving asthma outcomes needs to go beyond clinical care.
“For me, a particular 10-year-old boy with asthma showed me how much more patients could benefit from community interventions if I supplemented my clinical efforts,” Dr. Farri recalled. “During a hospital admission for an asthma flare, an outreach program from the hospital conducted a home visit and found mold and other pests in the patient’s apartment. The team also ensured that the medication administration form was available and communicated with the property owner about mold and risks to the patient, prompting him to conduct mold remediation. In only a few weeks, the patient's symptoms decreased, and he missed fewer school days. We can offer improved quality of care by going beyond ‘sick’ care to ‘home’ care for asthma and meeting people and families in their communities. As a result, I have been advocating for the addition of community health interventions to clinical visits and care.”
Dr. Farri relies on creative problem-solving in her approach to helping children with asthma both one-on-one and at a community level. She has seen firsthand how much greater the impact can be by training and empowering community health workers to help families understand and manage their child’s asthma.
“In the office, when I go over home self-asthma management instructions, I prevent avoidable emergency department visits,” said Dr. Farri. “However, when I train and support a team of community health workers who work for the asthma outreach program of a public health system, it’s rewarding to know that together we have prevented thousands of emergency room visits, missed school days, and improved the quality of lives for many more.”
A community approach is vital to reducing asthma disparities. That’s why Dr. Farri advocates for community interventions and encourages others to advocate in their communities as well. She offered this advice to anyone who wants to advocate for people with asthma:
- Health education is one of the drivers of the disparities. Use information from reliable sources such as AAFA to educate people about asthma.
- Advocate for government or corporate organizations to sponsor programs that address modifiable risk factors such as in-home trigger reduction.
- Encourage the community to use preventive care visits and services. There’s a wide gap in the use of and access to primary care and specialists by race.
- Encourage people to be an active part of their health care team. For example, know your doctors’ and medicine names, ask questions, and follow your treatment plans.
- Link asthma patients to social and community care services. There’s a link between unaddressed social risk factors in a patient or family with asthma and poorer outcomes.
- Think big but start small. Asthma is not one size fits all. You don’t have to do it all but be open to many different types of activities you can take part in – whether it’s a school outreach, advocacy for medicine stocking, in-home pest remediation, improving access to specialist referral, and more.
For Dr. Farri, her work is about more than just reducing asthma disparities. It’s a mission for the greater good. And it is her hope that lawmakers, corporations, health care professionals, and each one of us will come together to work for health justice and equity for people of color.
“Disparities are not about numbers – they highlight people’s lived experiences,” said Dr. Farri. “These health inequities do not just affect the person with asthma. They affect the health of our entire community.”
How Can You Help Reduce Asthma and Allergy Disparities?
The only way we can reduce health disparities is if we all work together. Everyone – from people with asthma and allergies 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 and allergies.
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
You can also donate to support AAFA’s mission to create real and lasting change.
1. National Center for Health Statistics. (2022). 2021 NHIS Child Summary Health Statistics. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. https://data.cdc.gov/d/wxz7-ekz9