Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

May 7, 2014

May is Asthma Awareness Month in Kentucky

ASHLAND — Gov. Steve Beshear has proclaimed May as Asthma Awareness Month throughout the state to promote awareness of the illness afflicting approximately 474,000 Kentuckians.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the exact cause for asthma is unknown and the disease is incurable, but is treatable with self-management education, appropriate medical care and abstinence from environmental triggers.

The Ashland-Boyd County Health Department is working with Eastern Kentucky Public Health Inc. to implement the joint Healthy Homes initiative.

“An average American spends half of their day at home, so living in an unhealthy environment can lead to numerous problems and greatly diminish your quality of life,” said Holly West, public service manager at the health department.

Through the program, both entities hope to create more suitable indoor environments for children and families suffering from “uncontrollable asthma,” which West described as having frequent hospital or emergency department visits for asthma attacks.

Healthy Homes workers will go into homes in each of the seven eastern Kentucky target counties (Boyd, Greenup, Carter, Lawrence, Elliott, Floyd and Pike) to help remediate living areas to be more asthma-friendly.

West said state grant money will help supply families with proper mattress toppers, vacuum cleaners, pillow cases and other similar items.

Chris Gillette from Marshall University’s College of Pharmacy is helping conduct research that will measure the effectiveness of Healthy Homes once it begins. He previously conducted similar research for asthma programs in Chapel Hill, N.C., which indicated reducing environmental triggers decreases the severity of asthma symptoms in children.

“A lot of times doctors don’t discuss the home environment with kids and their parents, so we created a program where we can discuss the importance of the home environment and the role environmental triggers plays in having asthma exacerbation,” Gillette said.

In the FIVCO area of Boyd, Greenup, Lewis, Carter, Elliott and Lawrence, the average cases of asthma prevalence is above the state average.

In children, reports show boys and girls with asthma prevalence in the FIVCO region at 15.8 and 17.9 percent, respectively. The statewide averages for boys and girls are only 12 and 9.3 percent, respectively.

Men and women in the FIVCO region with asthma prevalence come in at 11.1 and 13.7 percent, respectively. State averages for men and women are only 7.2 and 13.5 percent, respectively.

The CDC ranks Kentucky as third-highest in the nation for asthma prevalence. West said rates are greater in the eastern Appalachia region, where one in five children are diagnosed asthmatic.

 The governor’s proclamation indicates asthma is the cause of nearly 6,000 hospitalizations and 20,000 emergency room visits each year in Kentucky, leading to $399 million in direct medical costs and $62 million in indirect costs per year.

Healthy Homes is seeking 100 families with children in preKindergarten through middle school to participate in the Healthy Homes initiative. Since grant money is limited, West said supplies for families will be distributed on a case-by-case basis, determined by need.

Inspector training is completed in partnership with Appalachian Foothills Housing Authority in Wurtland.

Eastern Kentucky Public Health covers 10 counties: Boyd, Carter, Elliott, Floyd, Greenup, Johnson, Lawrence, Lewis, Magoffin and Pike.

LANA BELLAMY can be reached at lbellamy@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653.

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