Nov 1-2 @ Imperial Valley College

Helping our community control their Asthma one home visit at a time

Author: Valerie Lopez, Community Health Worker

I remember what it felt like to be a young mother at the age of 23 and taking my first son to the emergency room for the first time. I remember the feeling of fear hearing and feeling my son’s chest fight for a breath of air. I still remember when the hospital gave him a breathing treatment that day. And I clearly remember when the doctor diagnosed him with asthma.

After leaving the hospital that day, I remember being overwhelmed by all the medication and devices my son was prescribed. It was the very first time I had ever held an inhaler. I felt immense pressure as a young mother, knowing that his whole breathing journey would now rest on my shoulders. It was my responsibility to get it right, to read every bit of information and instructions on how to administer my son's asthma medication. No one took the time to explain the medication or how to administer the devices.

The doctor and pharmacy gave us the medications and just assumed we’d figure it out. It was then that I knew I had to take matters into my own hands if I wanted to control my son's asthma. I did my research, read articles, and read every direction on how to administer medication effectively.

I’m 34 now, and I can’t help but think how much having an asthma management program such as LINKAGES would have benefited my son and me back then. Having a community health worker to go to if I had any questions or concerns would have eased so much of my worries. And today, I am fortunate enough to be able to go to some of those mothers’ home and provide asthma education to relieve some of those worries off their shoulders.

I am grateful we have such a program and fortunate to be a community health worker who provides that service to our community. The Linkages Asthma Management Program and community health workers are helping our community control their asthma, one home visit at a time.

The Imperial County has on average over 12,000 children diagnosed with Asthma. The county alone faces double the states rates in emergency room hospitalizations due to this chronic respiratory illness. As community health workers of Comite Civico Del Valle, we feel a certain form of responsibility and obligation to our community. It is our duty to serve our community by providing education and knowledge that every child or adult can utilize to their advantage, to help reduce asthma rates, and improve our community. We must work together to improve our community’s health as a whole.

Comite Civico Del Valle has partnered with Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District and the Imperial County Health Department, to work together to improve the quality of life of every person affected by asthma.

Together we have implemented a team to reach the patient first at the hospital, when they are in the most need of help, and we are able to evaluate their needs and concerns first. After the patient is seen in the hospital, they are referred to the asthma management program known as “LINKAGES”. It’s after they have consented to receive extra help that we are able to follow up with them by providing home visits and education. The Linkages Program is one of the first of its kind to allow community health workers access to the patient’s clinical charts database in order to help improve the patient’s quality of life.

As Community Health workers, we were trained under HIPPA compliance (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) to assist patients under full and secure confidential compliance. It has been a positive influence in the Imperial County Health system. It has created a bridge between patients, health care, and doctors. Having access to health record information has helped to better serve the patient. It has allowed us to be able to enter notations into the data system for the doctors to see how the patient is doing after their hospitalization, and how they are learning to manage their asthma care with the help of our community health workers.

In the Linkages home visitation program, we are able to create a partnership between the patient and the healthcare worker. We can provide a clear understanding and presentation of asthma and its diagnosis. We provide an understanding of the difference between short term, and long-term medications and how to properly administer each medication. As community health workers we are able to show the patient how to identify signs and symptoms that suggest the worsening of asthma and the appropriate action to be taken at the time; a personalized action plan. We can address any questions or concerns immediately that the patient may have.