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Many children with food allergies also have asthma. Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous Americans carry the heaviest burden of asthma. Reducing this burden is a key mission of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).

On May 2, 2023 – World Asthma Day – AAFA announces new health equity program sites as part of AAFA’s Health Equity Advancement and Leadership (HEAL) program. This initiative supports AAFA’s commitment to drastically reducing health disparities in communities with the heaviest asthma and allergy burden. Kids with Food Allergies (KFA) is the food allergy division of AAFA.

The overall goal of HEAL is to reduce asthma deaths and hospitalizations among high-risk populations by partnering with and strengthening local community programs. AAFA recognizes the importance of combining national leadership with local community-driven action.

Funding for new community-based interventions in New York and Alabama will add to AAFA’s current health equity program sites in Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, and St. Louis.

Many people in the programs report having competing priorities and needs relating to their health. Food security, the risk of losing utilities, and the lack of reliable transportation are a few of the top needs households are facing to manage their asthma. Additionally, exposure to outdoor and indoor pollution continues to be a barrier to asthma management.

HEAL program sites incorporate community health workers (CHWs) to support program participants living with asthma and allergic diseases. CHWs are front-line public health workers who understand their communities. They provide health education and address other social needs of the people they serve.

AIRnyc will develop a unique asthma care program to help the Hispanic population in the Bronx and surrounding areas. In several high-poverty neighborhoods of the South Bronx – where the majority of residents are Hispanic or Black rates of asthma deaths and burden are consistently higher than the rest of New York City.

Mariluz Garcia has been a CHW for 20 years and has worked for AIRnyc for eight years. In her role as a CHW, she interviews families to gather information on their asthma and social and environmental issues that can affect their care. Households often need help getting medicine and removing pests, mold, and other triggers in the home.

Mariluz Garcia, a community health worker with AIRnyc

Mariluz Garcia, a community health worker with AIRnyc

Jaylen Labrew has received help from AIRnyc. She is a 6-year-old living with asthma, eczema, and autism. Mariluz helped Jaylen’s mother get a prescription for her asthma treatments and reduce indoor asthma triggers in their home.

Mariluz helped Jaylen’s family get a water leak fixed that was creating indoor mold. She also gave them referrals for Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Mariluz also shared tips on how to clean to reduce asthma triggers without harsh chemicals.

“Connecting patients with services and resources is the most rewarding aspect of the job,” said Mariluz. “Our work makes a difference, one patient at a time.”

In addition to New York City, the new round of HEAL funding will support a new program in Alabama. This program will use a virtual model for asthma management home visits and asthma education. The program will focus on rural health disparities by working with schools, local and state departments of health, and other state-based organizations and partners.

The second year of AAFA’s HEAL program is supported by Amgen, AstraZeneca, Genentech, Sanofi, and Regeneron.

Learn more about the HEAL program and AAFA’s health equity work.

How Can You Help Us Achieve Health Equity?

The best way to achieve health equity is by working together. Everyone – from people with food allergies and asthma to policymakers and the health care industry – can be a part of building programs that make a lasting difference for people, families, and communities impacted by food allergies and asthma.

Sign up for KFA’s community to stay up to date about the following opportunities to get involved:

  • Advocate for people affected by asthma and allergy disparities
  • Participate in patient-centered research and clinical trials
  • Share food allergy and asthma information with your family, friends, and local community

You can also donate to support KFA’s mission to create real and lasting change.


Images (1)
  • Mariluz Garcia, a community health worker with AIRnyc: Mariluz Garcia, a community health worker with AIRnyc

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