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5/15/24 blog post

empathy in action: the role of community health workers in asthma treatment

helping a child with asthma

Asthma is a significant challenge for more than 4.5 million children under 18, impacting their daily lives, aspirations, and dreams. At Dayton Children’s, we are dedicated not only to treating asthma but also to enhancing the overall wellness of every child living with this condition. 

Our Community Health Workers (CHWs) play a pivotal role in this mission, serving as important links between our patients and the resources that can transform their lives. By reaching out to families after a diagnosis, CHWs empower them with the knowledge and tools they need to manage asthma comprehensively, fostering resilience and a brighter, healthier future. 

CHW’s like Precious Brown have a unique connection to our community which impacts the way they carry out their job.  

Precious' path: making a difference as a Community Health Worker 

“I always wanted to give back to the community in which I grew up and helped mold me into the woman I am today. The only issue was I was unsure of how to fulfill that passion.” 

Precious Brown, community health worker, has been serious about her mission to make a difference in this community.  

When the opportunity was presented to join the team at Dayton Children’s, she was excited to be supported in pursuing her Masters in Public Health while also fulfilling her lifelong dream of helping others.  

“Being in this position, the impact that we are able to make for the families we serve is inexplicably rewarding,” shares Precious. “I remember when I was growing up I would watch my mom do things for people around her. Whether it was just a conversation or a gesture, I would see a sense of relief present on their faces and in their body. It was like a language that brought a calmness to everyone who was there to witness.” 

For Tabitha Miller, when her 8-year-old son Mason was diagnosed with asthma at Dayton Children’s, the presence of a CHW made her feel instant relief.  

“I started crying when she called me and she shared how she could help,” explained Tabitha. “I thought this was a blessing to have that extra help instead of just going to the doctor.” 

above and beyond support  for asthma patients

So what exactly is the role of a CHW? It may be hard to label but easy to tell that it makes a big impact.  

“Sometimes we are therapists, educators, advisories, mediators, and the lists can continue,” says Precious. “But of most importance we are advocators. As asthma Community Health Workers, we strive to help patients and their families healthily manage their asthma. This can look many ways, such as providing education to the patients about medication, environmental triggers, the importance of making office visits and what to do when symptoms are present and threatening.” 

Beyond education, CHW’s may also provide allergen bedding, swifter dusters, green cleaning buckets as an alternative to using harmful and asthma triggering chemicals, HEPA vacuums, spacers and more. All to limit the patient’s exposure to triggers that could cause irritation to the airways and provoke their asthma symptoms. 

Of course our CHWs also go above and beyond like Mekayla Pullins, who is the CHW for the Miller family.  

“She goes with us to doctors' appointments. She’s always messaging to see how Mason is doing. She met up with us last minute because my son does not like taking his steroid inhaler to help with his asthma and he was going to have to start taking shots once a week and she printed off some papers and explained everything to us and he’s been doing his breathing better since!" 

By holistically helping the family to improve factors, stressors and triggers, it can make outcomes for the child patient much better! 

“What I think most are unaware of when it comes to asthma, is that it can be deadly. Asthma is a life-threatening disease and should be treated as such. Therefore, if you are unfamiliar with the effects of asthma and you help asthmatic families at any capacity try and find time to research do that you are best equipped to help these families.” 

the importance of asthma awareness

By raising awareness, people are more likely to recognize the signs of asthma, seek appropriate medical care, and understand how to manage the condition effectively. Additionally, increased awareness can lead to advocacy for policies and resources that support asthma prevention, research, and access to quality healthcare for asthma sufferers. Ultimately, the purpose of raising awareness is to enhance the quality of life for people living with asthma and reduce the burden of the disease on society. 

Today, Mason is an active kid who is excited to start playing football this year! Thanks to support and guidance from CHWs, this is possible and our hope for all kids!

 “I find it important to not assume that everyone around you, including the families, are as knowledgeable. So, educate profusely but not with the absence of compassion. Extend grace and patience and make sure that you are serving each case uniquely because it will be most beneficial,” shares Precious.  

To learn more about our CHW program and our hospital’s commitment to health equity, click here.