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Mobile Dental Program

The Mobile Dental Program uses innovative clinics to reach, treat, and provide follow-up DSC_0140.JPGcare to children without access to dental services. Working in conjunction with over 80 schools and Head Start groups, the program provides services to over 5,000 children.

Mobile Care’s Dental Program is a comprehensive dental clinic that has the same features and services as a brick-and-mortar practice in higher income communities, with the capability to perform X-rays, complex restorative procedures, educate on oral care, and of course, provide routine cleanings. The mobile nature of the program breaks down the most common barriers of access to dental services for children across the Chicagoland area.

By providing dental care to children without increasing school absenteeism, the Dental Van:

• Decreases Emergency Room visits for preventable oral health issues
• Bolsters awareness of good dental health habits
• Cuts down on school absenteeism
• Increases median GPA
• Allows parents to take a more pro-active role in their child’s oral health

The Dental Van can be contacted at 312-543-5693.

Allergy Tests are Crucial to Asthma Management

When a child comes through the door of a Mobile C.A.R.E. Asthma Van for the first time, the appointment will likely take between 45 minutes and an hour. Our healthcare providers are by no means especially slow about their work—they can pack in more than a dozen appointments each during a typical school day—but because asthma management has a number of moving parts, we must be very thorough before forming a management strategy. A failure to consider even one element can undermine all of our other efforts.

Nowhere is thoroughness more necessary than with allergies. If you look at the CDC’s list of top asthma triggers, you’ll notice that the majority (such as pet dander, cockroaches, dust, mold and pets) are all among the top allergens as well. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America estimates that roughly 70% of asthmatics have what’s called “allergic-asthma,” in which a combination of allergies play a dramatic role in closing airways and causing attacks. Substandard housing conditions in low-income areas often hold many such triggers, but most parents don’t know that allergies cause asthma exacerbation.

To give an example, I was diagnosed with asthma when I was very young and have been on some type of medication as long as I can remember. I didn’t, however, know for sure what my allergies were until I was tested later in life. Since being tested and knowing which triggers to get rid of, my asthma has improved significantly. I’m sure many readers have similar stories. Allergies can counteract controller medications, effectively putting your body back where it started and making all that money spent on medication mean a lot less than you thought.

One of the services we provide for kids coming to an Asthma Van is free allergy testing. When a child has an attack and is rushed to an emergency room, they receive care to stabilize their condition, typically not allergy tests that help determine their asthma triggers. Primary care physicians might not bother with them either. If a family lacks comprehensive insurance, as a plurality of our families do, the likelihood is that they will never receive an allergy test. Yet what good is it to recommend that kids take all that expensive medication if there’s a high likelihood that something in their environment is negating its effectiveness?

This was highlighted for me when I had a chance to talk with Ms. Shu, the mother of an Asthma Van patient, a few months ago. Her son, Brian, was diagnosed with asthma in an ER at age 3, but he didn’t receive treatment before coming to an Asthma Van in the second grade. “The Asthma Van made an important difference,” Ms. Shu told me. “I knew that he was allergic to something in the house, but I didn’t know what it was.” Our Asthma Van physician administered an allergy test at no cost, and found that Brian was allergic to cats. And guess who had a cat!

That experience brought home for me why we need to be doing more to emphasize the importance of allergy testing to control asthma (as well as the need for asthma experts to do home environmental inspections, but I’ll have to talk about that another time). It may take a little longer to administer an allergy test, and it may be a little more expensive on the front end, but ensuring that a child’s medication is making the difference it’s supposed to will actually save a great deal of money long-term and will have the added benefit of significantly improving the quality of life for patients. Parents can’t remove allergens they don’t know about. We should give them the resources they need to help their children.

This post originally appeared on the SoundAsthma blog.

Asthma Education Program

Asthma Education

Mobile Care Chicago has an opportunity to double its community impact in the next two years through its new Asthma Education Program.

70% of asthmatics have what’s known as “allergic-asthma,” in which common household factors like pet dander, dust, mold, tobacco, and street pollution can trigger serious asthma attacks. Because low-income children often cannot afford allergy tests, and therefore don’t know exactly how to remove triggers (some don’t even know they have allergies), they make up the bulk of asthma hospitalizations and perhaps even the bulk of fatalities.

Severe and life-threatening asthma attacks due to allergy irritants can be prevented through the following strategies:

  • Provide allergy tests to asthma sufferers
  • Follow up with detailed information to educate and empower families
  • Make sure allergic-asthmatics have constant access to medical care
  • Conduct home environmental assessments

With these four components—allergy testing, education, access to healthcare providers (in this case, Asthma Educators will be able to schedule appointments on our Asthma Van clinics as often as needed), and home inspections by professionals looking for asthma triggers—we can make sure that no child has to suffer through costly emergency room visits, long hospitalizations, missed school, or fatality due to a disease we know we can control with proper support.

In studies, Asthma Educators have reduced hospitalizations and ER visits by 81% and 64% respectively. Since we are targeting a very high-risk population, there is a possibility that our efforts will yield even more dramatic results.

When the Asthma Education Program is fully implemented, we will be able to assist over 1,000 of the highest-risk asthma sufferers. This will expand on our mission to drive hospitalization rates and school absenteeism to near zero for our patients (only 3% of our patients reported a hospital visit last year versus 40% before enrolling in our program).

We’re already getting started! Meet Kamari Thompson, one of our Asthma Educators.

Support the work of Asthma Educators with a Financial Contribution.

Welcome Kamari Thompson

Meet Kamari Thompson, an Asthma Educator in the Altgeld Gardens neighborhood, and the most recent addition to the Mobile C.A.R.E. family! Kamari has been working in Altgeld Gardens since 2007, combating asthma rates more than double the national average (25% vs. 10% nationally).

“I’m so passionate about what I do,” Kamari says. “I’ve always known I wanted to talk to and help people.”

Asthma Educators work in local communities, educating and coordinating the major players (school staff and administration, parents, and children) to work in the best interest of asthmatic children. They provide personalized trainings to children to make sure they understand the medication they’re supposed to take, schedule appointments for children who need it to receive medical care upon our Asthma Vans, and (importantly) conduct home inspections to rid the environment of allergens and irritants that significantly inflame a child’s asthma. Kamari explains that asthma and home allergens “are a link parents don’t recognize without education,” even though for 70% of children allergens are a major trigger. “That’s why I am a very strong believer in prevention through education. Asthma should not restrict your way of life. If you tell them how to help their child, most parents are going to do that.”

What Kamari says rings true. Asthma Educators have been shown to reduce hospitalizations by as much as 81%, and ER visits by 64%. Educators also save us money by reducing patient no-show rates and increasing efficiency. We estimate that the Asthma Education Program, when it’s fully staffed, will save Mobile C.A.R.E. Foundation $122,000 per year—money that can be used to expand our work to other low-income neighborhoods.

Children with uncontrolled asthma miss five times as many days of school as non-asthmatic students, are routinely rushed to emergency rooms, suffer from sleep deprivation and an inability to exercise, and in extreme cases die from suffocation despite known control medications. We’re excited to welcome Kamari into our growing team!

How you can help our Asthma Educators:

1. Check our wishlist to see if you have items they need

2. Keep in touch with them via twitter (@asthma_vans)

3. Support their work with a financial contribution

Keeping Tim Out of the Hospital

A recent national study found that over 50% of children with asthma have never been tested. Many of those children live in low-income neighborhoods like those in Chicago’s Southside, where 25% of children have asthma.

Tasha first found out that her son, Tim, had asthma when a Mobile C.A.R.E. Asthma Educator conducted a free screening at Metcalfe Elementary. Before that, Tim often had breathing problems, but as Tasha says, “I didn’t understand what was going on, or how to counter-act symptoms.” Tasha and Tim were going to the emergency room for his primary care, where doctors told them contradictory information about the chronic illness.

Because his asthma was so out of control, the Asthma Educator made an appointment for Tim to be seen on the Asthma Van. There, the staff conducted a series of tests, including spirometry, in order to assess the severity of the disease. A specialist physician then created an asthma action plan with Tim, including regular check-up appointments and control medication. Then, the Van’s nurse walked Tim and Tasha through a host of education sessions about common asthma triggers, steps to make Tim’s medication most effective, and how to recognize the onset of an asthma attack.

Proper diagnosis, individualized education, and on-going care, the three pillars of Mobile C.A.R.E.’s Comprehensive Asthma Management Program, have been proven to control asthma, save the health system money, and save lives. Tim has been a patient on the Asthma Van for over six years, and as Tasha says, “we haven’t had to go to the emergency room for years now.”

“The staff make it easy to have insight on what’s happening to your child. Plus, they actually come to you. I’ve been with the Asthma Van a long time,” Tasha says, “and all the staff…they really make you feel like family.”

Interested in learning more about Mobile C.A.R.E. Foundation’s comprehensive services?

1. Read how Asthma Educators are saving money and lives

2. Learn more about our Comprehensive Asthma Management Program

3. Receive our monthly newsletter