WORCESTER, Mass. — UMass Memorial Health Care has been recognized by a national hospital association for its work to reduce school absenteeism, hospitalizations and emergency department (ED) use among children with poorly controlled asthma.
America’s Essential Hospitals, a national group representing hospitals committed to high-quality care for all people, including the vulnerable, awarded UMass Memorial Health Care the association’s 2016 Gage Award for Population Health. Population health is defined as the health outcomes of a group of individuals.
“UMass Memorial Health Care shows how essential hospitals reach into their communities–into schools and homes–to deliver care where and when it can have the greatest impact,” said America’s Essential Hospitals President and CEO Bruce Siegel, MD, MPH.
In 2014, UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center expanded a pilot program for children with poorly controlled asthma. Under the program, when a clinician or school nurse identifies a child as high-risk asthmatic, a specially trained community health worker who works as part of the clinical team, conducts home visits to address asthma triggers and provides basic education to improve medication adherence. The community health worker also connects the family with other needed resources for housing remediation and community legal aid.
The expanded comprehensive, city-wide, evidence-based intervention now includes all Worcester Public Schools, the Worcester Head Start program and 11 community partners. UMass Memorial’s Pediatric Pulmonology Department provides training to school nurses and works closely with school staff to ensure high-risk children are receiving medications at school.
As of June 1, 2016, a total of 302 home visits had been conducted for 133 high-risk children. A total of 48 homes had also received legal aid to work with landlords to rectify identified asthma triggers. UMass Memorial also has provided asthma training to 65 school nurses and clinical staff. After one year of the program, annual emergency department visits among 64 pediatric patients who received asthma medications at school declined from 93 visits to 37, and absenteeism among nine of those children fell from 127 total days missed to 78.
“Asthma is a leading chronic illness among children and adolescents in the U.S. and is a leading cause of kids being absent from school,” said Eric Dickson, MD, president and CEO of UMass Memorial Health Care.” An innovative collaboration among the pediatric pulmonology team, parents, school nurses and others is the reason for the success of this population health program in Worcester. I am very proud of the entire team for this important outreach to the community.”
The Gage Awards, named after association founder Larry Gage, honor and share successful and creative programs that improve patient care and meet community needs. The Gage Award for Population Health recognizes activities that improve delivery, access, or value for specific populations in the recipient’s community and, as a result, improve health outcomes.
About UMass Memorial Health Care
UMass Memorial Health Care is the largest not-for-profit health care system in Central Massachusetts with more than 12,900 employees and 1,670 physicians, many of whom are members of UMass Memorial Medical Group. Our member hospitals and entities include UMass Memorial — Clinton Hospital, UMass Memorial — HealthAlliance Hospital, UMass Memorial — Marlborough Hospital, UMass Memorial Medical Center and UMass Memorial — Community Healthlink, our behavioral health agency. With our teaching and research partner, the University of Massachusetts Medical School, our extensive primary care network and our cancer, diabetes, heart and vascular, orthopedic and surgery programs, UMass Memorial delivers safe, high-quality and compassionate care.