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November 20, 2002

Community Health Works (CHW), the 10-year-old educational partnership between the SFSU Department of Health Education and City College of San Francisco's Health Sciences Department, has been tapped by The California Endowment to coordinate a $12 million, statewide program to fight asthma at its sources: where children live, learn and play. The effort addresses the number one cause of children's hospitalizations in California, and the primary cause of missed school days.

CHW will receive $1,374,174 over 3 years to coordinate 12 community-based partnerships across California that will work with public, private and nonprofit groups to identify and reduce asthma triggers, said Mary Beth Love, professor and chair of health education and SFSUís principal investigator of the grant.

The local partnerships will bring together concerned parents, community leaders and organizations to assess the local impact of asthma, implement projects to reduce environmental triggers, develop outreach activities and promote prevention practices.

"This is a bold, upstream effort to deal with issues like fumes, environmental stresses, and the conditions of buildings that can contribute to asthma," Love says. "Some communities may focus on reducing mold and mildew in schools, others may work to reroute bus lines way from parks, or to encourage school buses to cut their engines while discharging children."

The Community Action to Fight Asthma (CAFA) program is the latest in a series of efforts by The California Endowment to improve the quality of life for the estimated 667,000 school-aged children with asthma in the state. The first phase, launched in 2001, was a three-year, $3.6 million program to various healthcare provider organizations to improve diagnosis, treatment and management.

Previously, Community Health Works conducted a demonstration prevention and care project for The California Endowment, funded by a 1999 award of nearly $1 million. Called the "Yes We Can Urban Asthma Partnership," it has focused on a case management model that addresses medical, environmental and social issues. A community health worker and nurse case manager work together to give educational sessions with family members, conducts a home assessment to spot and deal with triggers (such as using mattress and pillow covers to reduce dust mites), acts as liaison with schools and helps families navigate paperwork and eligibility issues surrounding health coverage.

"Yes We Can" demonstrated that its elements of team-based care, case management, early warning indicators and provider education/support could produce positive change. Preliminary data showed reductions in emergency room visits (down 50 percent) and hospitalizations (down 17 percent), and improvements in such avoidance measures as staying away from cigarette smoke (down 19 percent) and using covers for pillows and mattresses (up 88 percent).

CAFA was featured in a KQED "Bay Window" documentary on children with asthma that aired Friday, Nov. 1. Read the program transcript.

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Last modified November 20, 2002, by the Office of Public Affairs