AH! Asthma Health
The AH! Asthma Health Program is a systematic, coordinated, community-based approach to asthma care. Hospital-based, certified Community Asthma Education specialists work with patients, families, schools, community organizations, and primary care providers to educate and manage asthma care in accordance with treatment and management guidelines established by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. The AH! Program is based on current best practices in public health and medicine. Characteristics of the AH! Program include being evidence-based; drawing on best practice; using continuous process improvement; involving families, physicians, hospitals, schools, childcare, and other community/public health organizations; and focusing on outcomes. The AH! Program uses the four major components of asthma care which have been identified by the National Asthma Education and Prevention Task Force (National Heart Lung and Blood Institute). These include assessment and monitoring; control of factors contributing to asthma severity; pharmacologic therapy; and education for a partnership in asthma care. The AH! Program focuses on four major goals: 1) Public Awareness: To increase public awareness of asthma and the AH! Program. 2) Professional Education and Awareness: To improve asthma-related practices among a diverse group of professionals who treat patients, adults, and families with asthma; and to spread the AH! Program and theories of chronic care management to physician office practices, hospitals, and other settings in the MaineHealth service area. 3) Community Interventions: To integrate the AH! Program into the communities served by MaineHealth. 4) Policy: To support public policies that positively affect asthma in Maine; to support and advocate for payer benefit policies that promote access to high quality asthma care; to support employer-payer efforts (e.g. Pathways to Excellence) to keep asthma on the forefront.
The AH! Program helps healthcare providers practice evidence based care by supporting them using a multi-pronged approach. First, AH! supplies practices with tools such as clinical guidelines, patient questionnaires, flow sheets, and others to help them meet their goals. Second, we provide them with patient education materials and tools such as peak flow diaries, symptom assessment sheets, and others. The goal is to create a more informed, activated patient. Third, providers may refer to a hospital-based asthma education program for their patients and families. Asthma education is a critical component to creating patients who better self-manage their chronic illness. Fourth, AH! provides training to office/hospital staff on the basics of asthma, and on medication/device skills and competencies. In 2005, AH! provided in-office training and academic detailing opportunities in addition to a number of centrally located education sessions. By having an informed workforce, practices can provide better care to their patients with asthma. The Maine Medical Center Physician Hospital Organization disseminates much of the information about the AH! Program to the practices and is an integral partner in the success of spreading the program. In addition to the interventions with healthcare providers, the AH! Program had a significant community presence. We created an asthma curriculum for childcare providers called “Lucky the Lion”; we conducted a community collaborative with partners in business, childcare, schools, public health, minority populations, and others.