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The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago’s Asthma Program* FREE TO VIEW

Mary Beth Feeney; Linda Kopecky, MPH; Loretta Walker; Seth Feldman; Deborah daBalos
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*From The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago (Mss. Feeney, Kopecky, and DaBalos), Chicago, IL.

Correspondence to: Deborah daBalos, Community Services, American Red Cross of Greater Chicago, 111 E Wacker Dr, Suite 200, Chicago, IL 60601

Chest. 1999;116(suppl_2):200S-201S. doi:10.1378/chest.116.suppl_2.200S
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The American Red Cross is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide relief for victims of disaster and help people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies. Within the larger organization is the Community Services Department, focused on helping people lead healthier, safer lives. The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago serves the city and surrounding seven-county area. This chapter is a pioneer of sorts, in that they are the only chapter to have developed an asthma program in addition to the other standard programs.

The American Red Cross of Greater Chicago’s interest in asthma began in 1997, with a grant from the Otho S. A. Sprague Memorial Institute. The focus was to develop and implement a health educator training program for clinical staff and educators located in areas of high risk for asthma, including the following neighborhoods: Austin, Grand Boulevard, Kenwood, Chatham, Auburn, West Englewood, and West Palmer. One of the goals of the Red Cross is to help communities become self-sufficient. So they adopted a “pyramid approach,” whereby instructors from the Red Cross would train individuals at local clinics who would in turn try to reach as many people as possible.

Because this was the first Red Cross asthma program, the staff members at the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago were responsible for its conceptual design as well as its implementation. The staff reviewed many of the asthma education products already available; however, none seemed to fit their vision. They wanted a program that was family oriented and that placed emphasis on dispelling the fears of asthma for both parents and children. Although they realized much of the general content might be similar, the staff worked with the Chicago Asthma Consortium so as not to directly replicate other asthma education programs already in place in the Chicago area.

Ultimately, they designed a program of three modules—each 45 min to 1 h in length. The first module focuses on taking care of the home environment. The second teaches signs and symptoms of asthma, and the last module focuses on medications and management. The modules can be delivered separately or all together. They also designed a workbook for children, illustrated by a local teen with asthma. In keeping with the “train-the-trainer” approach to this project, they also designed an 8-h instructor and trainer course and guidebook.

The next step was to initiate monthly educator training sessions that were advertised mainly through the Chicago Asthma Consortium. Unlike other Red Cross programs, the trainer course is not open to the general public. Rather, it is targeted to health educators, respiratory therapists, nurses, and physicians with some prior experience in health education. After completing the course, the instructors are given materials, and they then implement the program back at their community clinics. The program is intended to supplement the information given by the doctor. In most cases, families are identified at the time of the initial visit for asthma. The family is then scheduled for a subsequent visit or series of visits with the health educator to administer the modules of the asthma program. Many times, the education sessions are planned to coincide with the next scheduled visit. To evaluate the program, the trainers administer before and after testing. This consists of a brief survey given to the families before and after the program.

The first year of the asthma initiative at the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago was one of tremendous accomplishment: not only did they successfully develop a new asthma education program and accompanying instructor training course, they also trained 35 health educators who in turn reached 75 families. Unfortunately, not all identified families take advantage of the program, even though it poses no cost to the patient. The instructors also find that it has been a challenge to get the posttests returned via mail or follow-up clinic visit. The Red Cross staff members realize that the evaluation component of their program needs further development, and they are currently exploring options for measuring the outcomes of their efforts.

The Red Cross looks forward to expanding “pyramid-style” until they reach all the targeted communities within the Chicago-area. In 1999, they hope to train 48 new educators and to reach 525 families. Next year, the Greater Chicago chapter will present the asthma program to the American Red Cross, National Headquarters. If well received, it could become a standard component of all chapters throughout the country.

This project was funded by a grant from the Otho S.A. Sprague Memorial Institute.




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