Dr. Heather Moore, a physician with UT Health Science Center at Houston, sees an asthma patient at Northwest Assistance Ministries children’s clinic.
About twice a week an ambulance pulls up to the children’s clinic at Northwest Assistance Ministries (NAM) in far northwest Houston. But it’s not dropping off a patient. Instead, emergency crews are picking up a child who is having such a severe asthma attack that he or she needs to go to the ER.
It’s a troublesome pattern that NAM’s medical staff sees week after week.
“We’re not just seeing high rates of children with asthma, we’re seeing an increase in re-occurring cases of asthma,” said Carole Little, NAM’s president and CEO. “We’re seeing children who come back with more and more severe cases.”
In an average 20-minute visit to the clinic, doctors and nurses say they can usually treat the symptoms of an child’s asthma attack, but they aren’t able to really explore what may be causing them once they go back home.
So when kids kept coming back to the clinic worse than were when they first visited, NAM’s leadership and staff decided something had to change.
“We need the opportunity to explore things deeper,” Little said. “We need to really survey children where they live.”
EHF’s $120,000 grant to NAM will support a new comprehensive case management and home-visitation program for its children’s clinic. Medical and social service case managers will go to patients’ homes to help determine the root causes of the children’s re-occurring asthma attacks and other medical problems. The case managers will then work with the families to find long-term solutions to becoming more healthy.
“It’s an opportunity for us to find out what’s really causing the problems,” Little said. “Case managers will be surveying the environment in the home. In the case of asthma, they may find things like mold, pets or something else are actually triggering the attacks. They’re the kind of things we’d likely never discover in the clinic. The grant allows us to employ a holistic, evidence-based, outcomes approach to the children we serve. We’re excited and grateful for the partnership and opportunity to make a difference at a deeper level.”
Case managers will also be able to provide humidifiers, air purifiers or other equipment to help make the home healthier for the young patients.
“Once again, this program highlights the importance of addressing the real causes of health problems outside of a medical clinic,” said Elena Marks, EHF’s president and CEO. “Many times these are the kinds of needed services clinics just don’t get paid for, so we can do that. If we don’t discover and tackle the true reason these children are getting sick again and again, then we’re just treating a symptom and not improving their health.”
The home visits will also help NAM address the growing number of children with juvenile diabetes. Case managers will be looking specifically at the kinds of food the families eat and how they prepare meals. When they find concerns, then NAM will offer meal plans, cooking classes, nutrition guides and other help.
You can learn more about Northwest Assistance Ministries at http://namonline.org/