Childhood asthma is a national health epidemic. In the United States, 1 in 11 children has asthma. It is the No. 1 reason kids chronically miss school. And asthma attacks are the most common reason for pediatric emergency room visits due to a chronic illness.

In addition to the physical and financial burden it has on individual families, it’s also a serious economic concern for the United States. Asthma costs add up to $56 billion each year. That includes direct costs like hospital care and indirect costs like lost productivity from parents’ missed work.

There is no cure for asthma, but it can be better managed with proper prevention and treatment.

Helping Children with Asthma

Through our Healthy Kids, Healthy Families® (HKHF) initiative, we wanted to improve the treatment protocols for patients with asthma.

We identified childhood asthma as an area of opportunity. We reached out to the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest (ALAUM) to collaborate with us on the best way to make a difference.

Together we developed an initiative to help improve pediatric asthma care for high-risk patients. The Enhancing Care for Children with Asthma Project is based on the National Asthma Education Prevention Program developed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

We used our claims data to identify areas in the participating states with high instances of pediatric asthma. We then worked with the American Lung Association to recruit clinics in those areas.

The project taught clinic staff how to help children and their caretakers learn to manage and control asthma. It also provided equipment to the clinics and educational materials for children and their caretakers. The educational materials explained what asthma is, how to avoid triggers and how to properly take medication.

From the project’s start in 2012 through 2015, it is estimated to have reached more than 350,000 children through nearly 90 clinic locations.

The results so far are significant. For the 28 clinic locations taking part in the first two years of the project, there was a 62 percent decrease in hospitalizations and a 54 percent decrease in emergency department visits for children with asthma who received care at a participating clinic.

Future Plans

The project is being extended for another two years. It will also be expanded to include more primary care clinics.

The project may also include an in-home evaluation phase. This evaluation would help identify and remove allergens and irritants in the homes of children with poorly controlled asthma.

Learn more about this initiative and how we are helping kids and their families breathe easier.

To learn more about asthma and Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s Taking on Asthma initiative, visit bcbsok.com/taking-on-asthma.