North Texas Asthma Summit to improve asthma outcomes for children

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Dr. Leslie Allsopp

Representatives from 10 North Texas organizations will come together Wednesday with one common goal in mind: improving health outcomes for children with poorly controlled asthma.

The goal of the North Texas Asthma Summit is to develop community partnerships to help these children who frequently experience asthma symptoms that may impact their ability to attend school or participate in activities. Interested community members are welcome to attend the free summit.

The summit will take place from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the North Central Texas Council of Governments, 616 Six Flags Drive, in Arlington. There are a limited number of in-person tickets available, but registration to attend the summit virtually will be open until 8 a.m. Wednesday. Register to attend the summit here.

As the leading chronic illness in children, health care providers know how to treat asthma. The challenge they face is arming children who suffer from the disease and their parents with the resources to manage it in a way that is timely and easy to understand, said Dr. Courtney Barnard, EdD, LMSW-AP, director of child wellness at Cook Children’s Center for Community Health.

Four of the organizations involved in the summit — SaferCare Texas, the patient safety department at The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth; Cook Children’s; John Peter Smith Health Network; and Acclaim — already work together in Tarrant County through a program called Asthma 411 to find ways to best manage asthma for all children.

Asthma 411 provides school nurses with supplies of Albuterol inhalers to help children with asthma while they are at school. The program also provides learning tools for families to help them understand asthma better.

“Asthma 411 has been working to provide these resources since 2013,” said Dr. Leslie Allsopp, an assistant professor of pediatrics at HSC’s Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine and an Asthma 411 faculty partner. “These new partnerships formed through the North Texas Asthma Summit will allow us to better identify gaps in care and help us better serve the children in our community.”

Allsopp said that children who don’t have access to the care and resources they need are more likely to experience poorly controlled asthma.

“Poorly controlled asthma in children can have a ripple effect,” Allsopp said. “If a child has an asthma exacerbation, a parent likely has to take off work. Poor asthma management not only impacts the child’s health and education, but may create burdens for families, schools, employers and communities.

The summit will kick off with keynote speaker Dr. Haneen Khreis, senior research associate in the MRC Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge School of Medicine. Khreis’ research focuses on how transportation, vehicle emissions and air quality impact those with asthma.

Following the keynote speech, attendees will hear from two panels — one focusing on data and the other on community voices and perspectives.

As the director of child wellness at Cook Children’s, Barnard has seen firsthand what happens when children and their families don’t get the health resources they need. Barnard oversees the community work around asthma, mental health, parenting support and healthy lifestyles for children.

“One thing we do at Cook Children’s is send community health workers into the homes of these children with asthma to make sure they get the preventative care they need,” Barnard said. “Between that and our work with Asthma 411, we are doing the best tackling issues from multiple directions, but I know there’s more that can be done, and my hope is that this summit reveals some potential paths forward.”

An area Barnard is most interested in discussing is easy-to-understand resources for families. Just because their doctor gives them a prescription and pamphlets about asthma doesn’t mean they understand what the next steps should be, she said.

For Allsopp, the summit is a long time coming. As a former nurse practitioner who focused on federally qualified health centers and school-based clinics, she’s made a career of finding the gaps in service to getting children the care they desperately need.

“I cannot stress enough how important this summit is for our community,” she said. “Coming together to learn about different initiatives and how we can support one another is going to make all the difference for these children.”

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