Connecticut Looks At Tackling Housing Issues To Treat Asthma

Connecticut Looks At Tackling Housing Issues To Treat Asthma

Nicole Leonard, WNPR, May 29, 2019. Article and Audio Interview Available Here.

A 10-year-old boy in the New Haven area had developed a bad case of chronic asthma — he could no longer play sports with his friends and had to take high doses of steroids. He was constantly missing school and ending up in the emergency department.

Alice Rosenthal, an attorney with the medical-legal partnership at the Center for Children’s Advocacy, oversaw the case. She said the family was great with keeping up with treatment and medical appointments, but health providers "just couldn’t quite seem to grasp what was going on when the family was doing everything they were supposed to.”

Eventually, a crucial piece of the puzzle fell into place.

“Mom spoke to the pediatrician and said, you know, we’ve had these really old carpets in our apartment,” Rosenthal said. “We’re lived there for five years, they’ve been there the whole time, so I can’t imagine how long they were there before.”

The carpet was eventually removed, which led to a significant improvement in the boy’s health. Cases like this show just how big of an impact housing quality has on health — especially asthma — and wellness advocates are taking notice with more services aimed at addressing housing and environmental issues. 

“We can keep putting band aids on all these individual stories, and that’s really important," said Rosenthal. "But when are we going to stop and say this is something we need to change on a more systemic level?”

State data shows that asthma affects about 12 percent of children and 10 percent of adults in Connecticut — rates are higher in urban areas. State officials estimate that this condition accounts for nearly $100 million a year in emergency room and hospitalization costs.

Experts at a recent Connecticut Hospital Association conference said prescribing treatment for the symptoms of asthma is no longer enough — health workers need to help families address the underlying issues that cause or exacerbate the condition. And Erin Boggs said some people need more help than others.

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