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A new plan for minority and low-income children with asthma

The Obama administration has announced a plan to help minority and low-income children with asthma.  The program stresses local coordination across health care, education, housing, and schools.

About 1 out of every 10 Michigan children suffer from asthma. Minority and low-income kids experience higher rates of hospitalization, missed school days, and death from asthma.

Michigan has made progress over the past decade.  Hospitalization rates for children with asthma have decreased by 28-percent.

John Dowling is the lead asthma coordinator for the Michigan Department of Community Health. He says even non-hospitalized children with asthma need close attention. Dowling believes more education about the disease is important for caregivers of low-income children.

"They have to understand their disease so that they believe that their asthma can be controlled."

Dowling says even if kids with asthma don't show symptoms, they still need to receive regular care for the disease.

Asthma is complex chronic disease that requires active medical management and environmental changes.  This may demand tough choices for low-income families.

Sarah Lyon-Callo is an asthma epidemiologist with the Michigan Department of Community Health.

"They're having issues with holding onto their home, they're having issues with food, there are issues with getting warm enough clothes for their children during the winter," says Lyon-Callo. "They're having to make choices between asthma management and those kinds of issues."

Lyon-Callo believes that case management workers for high-risk children can be an effective link to social and community services.

- Nishant Sekaran, Michigan Radio Newsroom