LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) – Doctors and nurses at National Jewish Health are improving the care of low income patients with asthma. They are training the staff at community clinics to better diagnose and manage their patients.

The program has been successful in rural Colorado both for medical staff and patients. Now National Jewish is targeting needy patients in counties around Denver.

CBS4’s Kathy Walsh got a closer look at the training. While she was at Estes Street Community Clinic in Lakewood medical assistant Melissa Barela tried her hand at spirometry. The test measures lung function. She was being coached by Nurse Deborah Felding. In fact, the entire staff at the clinic got a crash course in asthma care.

“About 10 percent of people in Colorado have asthma,” Dr. Bruce Bender with National Jewish Health said. “That’s a lot of people and not everybody with asthma in Colorado gets care for their asthma, or appropriate care.”

To meet the need, Bender came up with the asthma tool kit. Staff from National Jewish take their tools and training to communities in need. It started back in 2006 in eastern Colorado.

“For three years we went to 57 practices all over the Eastern Plains and we have changed the way these practices are providing care,” Bender said.

Now they’ve turned to urban asthma — working with the Metro Community Provider Network Clinics for the Underserved and Uninsured. They provide information and experience to better manage asthma and they give each clinic a $1,500 spirometer.

“We’ve found patients to have asthma that we didn’t know that they had asthma before and so we’ve been able to treat that early on,” Sophia Alires with Estes Street Community Clinic said.

The goal is better control of the disease.

“Miss less school, miss less work, have a better overall quality of life, and especially to keep them out of the emergency department, and out of the hospital,” Bender said.

The asthma toolkit program is funded by a nearly $1 million grant from GlaxoSmithKline.

The first phase focuses on asthma. The second will target chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.


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