Asthma has played a defining role in the young life of 13-year-old Kiniaya Parham.
It often causes her and her mother, Eugenia Davis, to have sleepless nights.
She has an inhaler, a spacer, and a nebulizer and takes several medications, including a nasal spray and eye drops, to control her symptoms.
Still, she has visited Akron Children’s ER several times this year and was hospitalized in May. So that means missed school days at Akros Middle School.
Kiniaya is considered a “high risk” asthma patient and so has qualified for a new program that is a collaboration between Akron Children’s Hospital and the Summit County Public Health.
The Managing Asthma Triggers at Home (MATH) Project is a year-long program that bridges the divide between hospital and home, helping families identify and address factors in the home environment that could be asthma triggers.
“Asthma is the most common chronic disease of childhood so we were very eager to get involved in this program,” said Dr. P. Cooper White, medical director of Akron Children’s Locust Pediatric Care Group. “When we talk about the ‘social determinants of health,’ we are talking about all of those things in our lives and in our environments that can impact our health and kids certainly spend more time at home and at school than they do at their doctor’s office or the hospital.”
In addition to issues in the home environment, another challenge that faces children with asthma is having access to the right medicines and taking them.
“We know that it’s really hard to take medicines every single day, so we partner with our patients and their families to simplify their asthma treatment as much as possible. Patients do better in the long run if they consistently take their asthma medicines, so we’re here to help any way we can,” said Dr. Starla Martinez, director of Akron Children’s Robert T. Stone Respiratory Center and a co-leader with Dr. White of Akron Children’s Asthma Program.
Sue Cummings, the Healthy Homes coordinator for Summit County Public Health, has been working with Eugenia and Kiniaya, as well as other Akron Children’s patients who are part of the program.
Cummings visited their home to take an assessment of the factors which can acerbate asthma – factors such as adults who smoke in the home, furnace filters which need changed, lead paint exposure, dust and pest droppings.
Depending on what she finds, Cummings can offer program participants free services such as a comprehensive professional home cleaning, an air purifier for the child’s room, and pesticide application. Some or all of a “clean home kit” can be offered: a HEPA vacuum and filter unit, dehumidifier, new furnace filter, and mattress and pillow covers. Spacers are also available for inhalers.
Participants will undergo pulmonary function tests at Akron Children’s during the program to measure progress, and they are offered monthly text messages with reminders and links to educational videos.
Davis has worked closely with Kiniaya’s medical team in Akron Children’s Locust Pediatric Care Group and Pediatric Pulmonology Department to help get Kiniaya’s asthma under control, and now has welcomed the help of Summit County Public Health.
In addition to the home assessment, Cummings has made numerous calls for the family, including looking into their eligibility for new housing through the Akron Metropolitan House Authority.
“She is special, for sure,” Davis said of Cummings. “I really appreciate all she has done for us. We have learned a lot.”
Depending on funding, Akron Children’s and Summit County Public Health hope to expand the MATH Program to more participants and are looking at linking in school nurses more closely via Akron Children’s Division of School Health. Akron Children’s nurses are in 180 schools across 30 school districts.
Ideastream (WVIZ TV) featured the program in this Dec. 31, 2018 segment. Watch below or on YouTube.