TidalHealth, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity and Chesapeake Housing Mission, has been awarded a $125,000 grant from the Rural Maryland Council for its EXHALE Asthma Control program. The grant is being used to identify, educate on and address asthma triggers or trigger-promoting conditions in Lower Shore homes that negatively affect breathing.
The program is administered by a TidalHealth community health worker who will conduct a comprehensive home and health assessment to determine what is needed to create a healthy, safe, energy-efficient home. Households are being referred to the EXHALE team by local health or social service providers or other community partners.
The goal is to not only address the high rate of uncontrolled asthma and other obstructive lung diseases on the Lower Eastern Shore, but also to correct those contributing factors like lack of proper healthcare and a primary care provider, and substandard housing. The program includes home upgrades and repairs by Habitat and Chesapeake Housing Mission, when needed.
“The link between poor housing conditions, poverty and health on the Lower Shore is shown by the high rates of children with asthma and adults with asthma, COPD, or lung cancer. Asthma is the most common chronic lung disease in children and is one of the largest racial and ethnic health disparities for Emergency Department (ED) visits,” Kathryn Fiddler, vice president of population health at TidalHealth said in a prepared statement. “Asthma is the cause of more ED visits than other chronic diseases, even hypertension and diabetes, is responsible for more than $81 million in hospital charges for children, and for an additional 2.3 missed days of school per child.”
EXHALE, as part of the CDC’s National Asthma Control Program, features six strategies to meet the goals to reduce asthma-related hospitalizations, emergency department visits, missed days of work or school, and create healthier, more energy efficient homes. Included are: Education, X-tinguishing smoking, Home visits, Achieving connectivity with healthcare providers, Linking people with care and Environmental best practices to reduce risk in the home.
All are essential needs on the Lower Shore as supported by state data.
According to Maryland Department of Health Environmental Public Health division, Wicomico and Somerset counties are third and fifth in the state for the rate of asthma ED discharges. Worcester County is tenth.
The age-adjusted death rate due to lung cancer is higher in all three counties—52.8%, 63.2% and 51.2% respectively—when compared to the rest of the state at 40.1%.
Wicomico and Somerset counties are consistently ranked as among the least healthy counties in Maryland and the Lower Shore has a significantly greater proportion of residents at the federal poverty level.
“Through the EXHALE program we are improving health equity in our community through chronic disease management and connecting participants to social supports that will improve their overall quality of life, not just their respiratory condition,” added Dr. Fiddler.
The grant will fund the program through June of next year.