Community in Action

Public Health—Seattle & King County

Winner Blurb: 

During its 20-year history, the King County Asthma Program (KCAP) at Public Health—Seattle & King County has pioneered research and programs in asthma management. Under the guidance of Dr. Jim Krieger, KCAP developed its core programming: home visits with community health workers (CHWs) to reduce asthma triggers in homes and improve asthma outcomes. For 20 years, KCAP’s projects and research have helped build the solid evidence base for this model, which now informs asthma services offered across the nation. To build this program, KCAP program staff have worked with care providers in public health settings, hospital systems, community clinics, health plans, schools, housing agencies and community organizations. Since its original demonstration project began in 1997, KCAP has engaged more than 4,000 patients in programs to manage environmental asthma triggers and improve care delivery for better health outcomes.


Building on a deep history of providing asthma services to those most in need, KCAP’s current Guidelines to Practice (G2P) project focuses on coordinating care and services for low-income clients with poorly controlled or uncontrolled asthma, specifically for King County’s African American, Hispanic and Somali communities. These communities are disproportionately affected by asthma and more likely to live in housing that exposes them to asthma triggers. Funded through a grant from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), G2P is KCAP’s most robust program to date. The program coordinates care between the patient, the patient’s health care provider and the patient’s health plan. Experienced CHWs work with patients in their homes to reduce asthma triggers; they also provide case management, support, supplies and resources to help patients self-manage their asthma. Working with several clinics and health plans, KCAP has developed an enhanced electronic health record template that streamlines communication between CHWs, care providers and health plan managers, making it easier for patients to access care. The three care teams are now able to work from a shared asthma care plan.


KCAP’s four CHWs have extensive experience working with individuals to improve health outcomes. Some have backgrounds in social work, medical assistance and medical interpretation, but their strongest experience is their deep familiarity with the communities they serve. CHWs have social and cultural connections and shared life experiences with their clients, which helps ensure that KCAP’s care delivery is culturally relevant. The program currently enrolls clients, both adults and children, to receive up to three home visits from a CHW. Each home visit consists of a home environment assessment, assistance with the identification and management of asthma triggers, and a discussion about medication concerns and adherence. The CHW sets self-management goals and provides practical tools to reach those goals, including a free High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) vacuum; HEPA air filters for high-risk patients; allergen-control bed covers; food storage containers; green cleaning kits; and an asthma spacer, peak flow meter and medicine boxes.


Many clients face pressing stressors that overshadow asthma as a concern, such as poor housing conditions, housing instability and mental health issues. Although CHWs emphasize asthma management, they can coordinate additional services so that these patients can begin to focus on their asthma. CHWs can connect patients with KCAP’s partners and local agencies offering other clinical and social services. The CHWs’ ability to provide culturally competent, empathetic approaches to the many social and environmental causes of asthma have been a cornerstone of KCAP’s success in asthma care for the past 20 years. KCAP’s programming is expanding to include additional partners that can more directly offer clients asthma-related services. These programs include housing weatherization and repairs specific to respiratory disease, tenant advocacy and legal resources, child care consultation, and training for pharmacists on medication adjustment.


In addition to working with clients in their homes, KCAP’s current program works with care providers and health plans to change systems and improve delivery of services in the community. KCAP is working with 13 clinics and two health plans to improve clinical care guidelines; equip clinics with spirometry and allergy testing; and optimize electronic health records to improve communication and care coordination between care providers, patients, CHWs and health plans. It also is working with two health plans to improve their Medicaid Managed Care Plans, adding such components as enhanced case management, medication monitoring, and provider notification of emergency room visits or hospital discharge.


KCAP’s extensive body of work in environmental asthma management and care coordination is evident in the successful patient outcomes throughout the program’s history. KCAP’s pioneering efforts with the CHW model and care coordination have contributed to decreases in asthma-related hospitalizations and urgent care use, increases in patient and caregiver quality of life, and a greater overall return on investment when compared to standard care. KCAP continues to build the evidence base for the CHW model and patient-centered asthma care, and it serves as an exemplar for asthma care delivery across Washington state and nationwide.

Winnner Photo: 
Winner Photo Caption: 

Over 20 years, King County Asthma Program’s (KCAP) Community Health Worker programs have reached over 4,000 patients in programs to manage environmental asthma triggers and improve care delivery for better health outcomes. Above, CHWs, program staff, and project partners from KCAP’s Guidelines to Practice project.

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Asthma Regional Council for their New England Asthma Innovation Collaborative

Winner Blurb: 

Health Resources in Action’s Asthma Regional Council (ARC) established the New England Asthma Innovation Collaborative (NEAIC) in 2012 with a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (the Innovation Center) Health Care Innovation Award. NEAIC’s goal is to improve asthma outcomes, quality of care, and health care costs, especially for Medicaid and State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)-enrolled children, by advancing asthma home visits and sustainable payment systems across four New England states: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont. This goal supports the Innovation Center's aim to achieve better care for patients, better health for communities, and lower costs through improvements to the health care system. NEAIC achieves this goal through asthma self-management education; home environmental assessments, including minor-to-moderate environmental intervention supplies to mitigate asthma triggers; and use of nonphysician providers shown to be cost-effective deliverers of this level of care, particularly community health workers (CHWs) and certified asthma educators (AE-Cs).


During NEAIC’s 3 years of Innovation Center funding, providers utilized CHWs and AE-Cs to provide evidence-based home visit assessments and interventions. The target population was pediatric patients (ages 2–17) with poorly controlled or uncontrolled asthma symptoms who had a history of using expensive urgent care, with a focus on high-cost Medicaid and CHIP patients. Patients were enrolled in the intervention for an average of 6 to 8 weeks, with followup at 6 and 12 months after the first home visit. Medicaid payers provided patient claims and encounter data to monitor costs and outcomes for their patient populations, and some will consider new reimbursement policies should the interventions demonstrate positive health and cost outcomes.


Broadly, NEAIC focuses on four components: (1) workforce development, (2) rapid service delivery expansion, (3) committed Medicaid payers, and (4) a Payer and Provider Learners Community. Each component builds in continuous quality improvement measures through rigorous data collection/analysis, strong partnerships, and commitments from interested payers and policymakers.


In support of a well-trained workforce, NEAIC has provided scholarships for individuals to attend an asthma training institute to increase the number of AE-Cs; they also sponsored core training (a 48-hour course) and asthma home visiting training (a 24-hour course) for CHWs. Both asthma educators and CHWs are considered qualified and cost-effective providers. NEAIC also explored payers’ attitudes, knowledge and beliefs about both asthma home visits and CHWs. These conversations led to recommendations for innovative CHW asthma-credentialing programs that payers and provider practices across New England have requested and can benefit from. These combined efforts should contribute to higher-quality and culturally competent care, and NEAIC believes that the demonstrated cost-effective outcomes will help support innovative Medicaid reimbursement.


NEAIC experienced rapid service delivery expansion and provided asthma home visits to 1,145 high-risk children with asthma in its four-state service area during its 3 years of Innovation Center funding. Self-reported data and observations during home interventions show improvements to several intermediate factors, including exposure to environmental triggers, which may explain the improved asthma control and reported decreases in the use of health care services. Findings point to improved quality of life for asthma patients and their caregivers, including a nearly 50-percent reduction in the number of days patients missed school because of asthma and a more than 60-percent reduction in their caregivers’ missed work days.


Since its inception, NEAIC has engaged Medicaid payers as partners to provide claims data, participate in regional meetings, and consider financing and policy changes should the service model results achieve the Innovation Center’s aims.


The Payer and Provider Learners Community exists to rapidly disseminate demonstrated improvements to the quality and cost of asthma care, share viable reimbursement systems developed, successfully incorporate CHWs into the asthma care team, and disseminate best practices across New England. The Learners Community builds on ARC’s existing networks and partnerships across the region to increase awareness about these successful models, with the goal of broader adoption across New England.


Through these four components, NEAIC establishes and promotes CHWs as strong health care delivery partners who address environmental conditions as part of the disease management program—with reimbursement by payers—making this an innovative model for broad dissemination and potential replication across the nation.


NEAIC’s Partners


Clinical Providers

  • Boston Children’s Hospital (Boston, MA)
  • Baystate Children’s Hospital (Springfield, MA)
  • Boston Medical Center (Boston, MA)
  • Children’s Medical Group (Hamden, CT)
  • Middlesex Hospital (Middletown, CT)
  • Rhode Island Hospital/Hasbro Children’s Hospital (Providence, RI)
  • Rutland Regional Medical Center (Rutland, VT)
  • St. Joseph’s Health Clinic (Providence, RI)
  • Thundermist (Woonsocket, RI)


Workforce Development Partners

  • Central Massachusetts Area Health Education Center, Outreach Worker Training Institute (Worcester, MA)
  • American Lung Association of the Northeast (Waltham, MA)
  • Boston Public Health Commission, Community Health Education Center (Boston, MA)
  • Massachusetts Association of Community Health Workers (Worcester, MA)


Medicaid Payers

  • BMC HealthNet Plan (Boston, MA)
  • Department of Vermont Health Access (VT State Medicaid)
  • Connecticut Department of Social Services (CT State Medicaid)
  • Health New England (Springfield, MA)
  • MassHealth (MA State Medicaid)
  • Neighborhood Health Plan of Massachusetts (Boston, MA)
  • Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island (Providence, RI)


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Winner Photo Caption: 

Marie Gilmond (Rutland Regional Medical Center, VT), Susan Sommer (Boston Children’s Hospital, MA), Veronica Mansfield (Middlesex Hospital, CT), Stacey Chacker (Health Resources in Action), Megan Sandel (Boston Medical Center, MA), Annie Rushman (Health Resources in Action), Elizabeth McQuaid (Hasbro Children’s Hospital, RI), June Tourangeau (St. Joseph Health Center, RI), Michael Corjulo (Children’s Medical Group, CT). Missing from this picture is Matthew Sadof (Baystate Medical Center, MA), Donna Needham (Thundermist Health Center, RI) and Heather Nelson (Health Resources in Action)

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The Green & Healthy Homes Initiative

Winner Blurb: 

The Green & Healthy Homes Initiative (GHHI) serves low-income families living in Baltimore City, Maryland, using a transformative asthma management model that combines in-home family asthma education; a comprehensive health, safety and home energy audit; and root cause remediation.


Residents of Baltimore City, Maryland, face a higher than average rate of asthma prevalence, hospitalizations, emergency visits and deaths compared with residents of other Maryland regions and the nation as a whole. Approximately 18.6 percent of Baltimore City children have asthma, compared with the national average of only 5 to 8 percent. Furthermore, African Americans living in Baltimore are disproportionately affected. African Americans with asthma visit the emergency room 6.5 times more often than Caucasians. The asthma hospitalization rate for children in Baltimore City is twice the rate of Maryland as a whole, and African Americans in Baltimore experience an asthma mortality rate that is     3 times higher than that of Caucasians.


Working as a coalition of 35 federal, state, local, nonprofit, university and philanthropic partners, GHHI provides health-based housing intervention services to families with asthmatic children ages 2–14 who live in neighborhoods with the highest rates of asthma in the state. Homes in these very low-income communities usually are in deteriorating condition, with such environmental health hazards as high levels of dust, pest antigens, mold and very poor indoor air quality. Following the recommendations of an Environmental Assessment Technician’s report, GHHI deploys professional hazard reduction crews to remediate these home-based environmental hazards to reduce and eliminate avoidable asthmatic episodes.


GHHI began in Baltimore, Maryland, as the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning. Although originally focused on reducing lead hazards, the organization’s community-based workers perceived that other home-based environmental health hazards—especially asthma triggers—also demanded attention to support children’s health. In 2000, with seed money from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Coalition established one of the first Healthy Homes programs in the nation. In 2013, the Coalition changed its name to GHHI to reflect its broadened scope of services and mission impact, with Baltimore as its flagship site.


Since 2000, GHHI Baltimore has conducted housing interventions in 1,118 homes of patients diagnosed with asthma in Baltimore City. By remediating home-based environmental asthma triggers, GHHI has effectively reduced the incidence of asthma among those patients and stopped avoidable visits to the Emergency Department (ED) and hospital. GHHI’s highly successful approach served as the model for Baltimore City’s Office of Green, Healthy and Sustainable Housing. Unlike other Healthy Homes programs, GHHI integrates “green” weatherization and energy efficiency work with traditional healthy homes services, such as integrated pest management and mold removal, to achieve maximum health benefits for the target population. Moreover, GHHI Baltimore builds the community’s human capital. GHHI does this by deploying its own team of contractors to conduct multi-component home interventions and by hiring residents of at-risk Baltimore communities who receive training and accreditation to conduct interventions.


The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s (MDHMH) most recent data showed that, in 2009, 5,514 children in Baltimore City went to the ED for asthma, of whom 792 children who were hospitalized. Data also indicate that 52 percent of children in Baltimore who are hospitalized with asthma are residents of GHHI Baltimore’s target communities. If 52 percent of the city’s 5,514 children with asthma ED visits reside in GHHI’s target communities, GHHI Baltimore reaches approximately 4–7 percent of all children with persistent to severe asthma in those communities. To serve these children, GHHI has an intake stream from established referral sources and long-term partners, including managed care organizations (MCOs) and asthma clinics. GHHI annually serves 100–200 children diagnosed with asthma.  


GHHI’s integrated, community-based approach involves all of the necessary partners to provide comprehensive care.  With MDHMH funding, GHHI provides training to clinicians and staff of local community clinics and participates in Grand Rounds Trainings for physicians, pediatricians, nurses and other health care providers. GHHI reaches approximately 100 health care providers annually through the Initiative’s instruction on integrating home-based and environmental-focused intervention with comprehensive clinical care. When patients enter the program, an environmental assessment and education team meets with the family to review their home conditions. A GHHI Environmental Asthma Educator serves as the primary point of contact among the family and provider/nurse care manager/case management. The Environmental Asthma Educators staff review the patient’s Asthma Action Plan and medication management. The home asthma educators reinforce the information provided by the clinician and ensure that any behavior that may impact asthma, such as smoking, is addressed.


Besides serving clients directly, in the last 7 years, GHHI has conducted 1,743 outreach presentations and events, including 168 school presentations, 154 daycare center events, 742 community center events and 70 MCO presentations, providing more than 121,912 Baltimore City residents with information about healthy homes and asthma prevention.  

Winnner Photo: 
Winner Photo Caption: 

Green & Healthy Homes Initiative sites from across the country met in Washington, DC last fall to present a congressional briefing on the health, social and economic benefits of green and healthy housing.

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