Researchers in Georgia plan to use an asthma program designed for teens to help asthma sufferers in rural areas manage their disease and avoid potentially fatal complications. Puff City, a culturally-tailored web-based intervention program, focuses on three key areas—reduction of tobacco exposure, adherence to medication, and attack readiness—to help at-risk teens better control their asthma.
Dennis Ownby, chief of the Allergy and Immunology section at the Medical College of Georgia School of Medicine, believes asthma rates are as bad in rural areas as they are in inner cities. “The prevalence is probably the same in rural areas,” he said. “But teens from those areas already face a number of other problems that can complicate their disease—poor housing quality, air pollution, more trouble getting to doctors and smaller, less-equipped hospitals.”
Over the next three years, with $2.1 million in funding from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Ownby and Martha Tingen, a nurse researcher at the Georgia Prevention Institute, will work with 300 9th-to 11th-graders with asthma in several rural Georgia counties. Half of the teens will be exposed to traditional educational asthma web sites, and the other half will use Puff City.
Puff City has already proven useful in other populations, including inner-city teens in Detroit, where it was originally tested. Patients in the original test group had 50% fewer visits to emergency departments, required 50% fewer hospitalizations, and had 60% fewer school absences.