The Cigna Foundation awarded a $375,000 Health and Well-Being grant to support the South Side Pediatric Asthma Center’s (SSPAC) mission to improve access to care and health outcomes for children with asthma on the South Side of Chicago.
SSPAC launched in 2017 with the goal to reduce health disparities related to pediatric asthma in Chicago through a partnership between South Side health institutions, including the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital, La Rabida Children’s Hospital, Friend Family Health Center, St. Bernard Hospital, Beloved Community Family Wellness Center, and Chicago Family Wellness Center.
“The grant provided by the Cigna Foundation will enable us to expand the SSPAC over the next three years to UChicago Medicine Ingalls Memorial in Harvey, Illinois, and continue to improve asthma outcomes for young people,” said Brenda Battle, MBA, BSN, RN, vice president of UChicago Medicine’s Urban Health Initiative and chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer.
About 6 million children in the US ages 0–17 years have asthma, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Six of the nine Chicago neighborhoods with the worst asthma outcomes are within UChicago Medicine’s service area (UCMCSA), according to the Chicago Department of Public Health. The hospital’s Community Health Needs Assessment data shows that the rate of asthma-related emergency department visits among youth and adults is disproportionately high in the UCMCSA as compared to the rest of the city.
Since its inception, the SSPAC has built a robust collaborative community to support families through asthma education materials, a yearly Asthma Educational Summit, and Asthma Resource Line. In addition to education and outreach efforts, the Center also facilitates direct support for families through a network of community health workers (CHWs). CHWs are community members trained to educate families on asthma management, conduct home assessments, connect families to resources, and assist in navigating the healthcare system.
“I let families know that I’m just like them,” said Dameka Edwards-Hart, a community health worker with the SSPAC. “I have asthma. I’m a mom. I tell parents: My goal is your goal. I just want to help your child be well.”
Families who completed at least six months of engagement with a CHW reported reduced asthma morbidity, healthcare utilization, and absenteeism. SSPAC has helped reduce asthma-related emergency department (ED) visits by 55 percent, hospitalizations by 56 percent, missed school days by 47 percent, and missed workdays for parents by 52 percent.
“We are proud to support the important work the South Side Pediatric Asthma Center is doing to provide asthma education and resources to children in our area,” said Brian Marsella, Midwest market president for Cigna. “SSPAC’s mission aligns with ours to improve the health, wellbeing, and peace of mind of the communities and families we serve.”
The Health and Well-Being Grant from the Cigna Foundation will enable SSPAC to hire a CHW to reach high-risk families on the far South Side and a respiratory therapist to train community members on how to use spirometers, a specialized device that tests how well a person’s lungs work.
“We are seeing positive results on Chicago’s South Side that support our long-term goal, which is to empower children and families to self-manage their asthma,” said Battle. “For this reason, we are thrilled about the opportunity to expand this work thanks to the grant from Cigna Foundation.”