In 1998, the city of Hartford, Connecticut had a growing population of low-income minority citizens with asthma. Only one-third of children with persistent asthma in this community were being treated with appropriate anti-inflammatory medication, and most of these children lived in old housing where pest infestation and overcrowding were common problems.
The community needed a cost effective asthma management program to assist busy primary care clinicians in diagnosing asthma and effectively treating patients. The result was the creation of the Easy Breathing© program.
Easy Breathing© — originally housed within the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center — focuses on five elements of care: diagnosing asthma, determining asthma severity, prescribing therapy appropriate for the asthma severity, developing a written Asthma Treatment Plan that is understood by the family, and assessing asthma control.
The program then utilizes a database to track its outcomes, including environmental exposures, interventions and feedback for clinicians. The database is also used for research and reporting purposes, and it provides clinicians with information regarding the demographics of their patient population, environmental exposures and asthma severities for all children enrolled in the program.
An essential element of the program is the Easy Breathing© Survey, which is administered in the physician’s office when the patient comes for an office visit. The survey helps parents identify environmental exposures in the home that are potentially problematic for a child with asthma. The results of the survey are then immediately discussed with the patient and are used as a starting point for education regarding avoidance and elimination of harmful environmental conditions, such as smoking in the home.
Today more than 106,000 children across the state have been enrolled in the Easy Breathing© program — more than 28,000 of which have asthma. This success is due in large part to extensive community partnerships between clinicians, parents, hospitals, clinics, schools, foundations, lung associations, housing authorities and pharmaceutical industry representatives that have been a cornerstone of the program from its inception.
Easy Breathing© has been tremendously successful and has lead to significant increases in the use of written treatment plans, decreases in hospitalization rates and emergency department visits for asthma, and increased usage of inhaled corticosteroids. The program is now being implemented throughout Connecticut and in nine other states.