Children with asthma who lack primary care are at high risk for hospitalization

DALLAS (May 19, 2014) — Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood and one of the leading reasons for emergency room visits, yet severe attacks leading to hospitalization often are avoidable. According to experts at Children’s Medical Center Dallas, the first line of defense are the primary care physicians who offer “medical homes” for children with asthma, providing ongoing, coordinated care and assistance in the management and control of this disease. However, according to Dr. Ray Tsai, president and chief medical officer of MyChildren’s, almost a third of Texas children with asthma have not had a routine medical checkup in 12 months.

“The importance of a medical home for a child with a chronic illness like asthma can’t be overstated, because severe attacks can be avoided when children are under the care of a primary physician, and parents and patients have assistance identifying and minimizing triggers,” said Tsai.

Medical home is a term that refers to the center of a child’s medical records but it is also the home base for a range of coordinated medical and non-medical care, and a family-centered partnership that includes the patient, parents and primary care clinicians, along with other community-based support and specialists.

“The primary care physician plays a critical role in screening, diagnosing and developing scheduled treatment plans for managing asthma. Waiting until a severe asthma episode requires a visit to the emergency room can put a child at risk for a lengthy hospital stay and even life-threatening complications,” said Tsai. “For children with moderate to severe asthma, it is also important to have an asthma specialist involved in their care management.”

Recent data from the Texas Department of State Health Services show the North Texas region has one of the highest hospitalization rates for pediatric asthma. The total cost of pediatric asthma hospitalizations in Texas in 2011 topped $172 million, with Dallas County representing more than half of the $53.9 million tally for the region. Asthma also is one of the main reasons children miss school, which has a cascading detrimental effect on families.

Children’s also has an outpatient Asthma Management Program, partnering with primary care physicians, to help parents and patients better control the disease through asthma education and self-management skills in both home and school environments. The program facilitates coordination among all caregivers including family members and primary care providers as well as school nurses, teachers and coaches.

“It’s important for parents and caregivers to learn about the triggers for asthma, including allergens, air pollution, cigarette smoke and stress. With summer upon us, the ozone level rises with the temperature and children are outside more because they are out of school, so parents need to be extra vigilant about asthma triggers,” said Dr. Rebecca Gruchalla, division director for allergy and immunology at UT Southwestern Medical Center and Children’s, and professor of internal medical and pediatrics at UT Southwestern.

“May is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, and it’s an ideal time to consider screening that can occur through simple questionnaires and lung function testing. Various organizations offer this type of screening including those affiliated with the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology,” said Dr. Gruchalla. “We want parents to know that asthma can be managed and controlled so children can live active, healthy lives.”

See asthma statistics and facts compiled by Children’s Medical Center.

Media Contact: Patty Sullivan
patricia.sullivan@childrens.com
214.456.5308

About Children’s Medical Center

Founded in 1913, the not-for-profit Children’s Medical Center is the seventh-largest pediatric health care provider in the country, receiving more than 760,000 patient visits annually at its two full-service campuses in Dallas and Plano, multiple specialty clinics and 16 primary care MyChildren’s locations. Children’s was the state’s first pediatric hospital to achieve Level I Trauma status and is the primary pediatric facility affiliated with UT Southwestern Medical Center. For more than 100 years, Children’s has been dedicated to making life better for children. For more information, please visit childrens.com.

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