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Lynn Gerald, PhD, to Co-Lead Program to Improve Asthma Care with the Navajo Nation

Lynn Gerald, PhD, MSPH, Canyon Ranch Endowed Chair and professor at the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and associate director for clinical research with the UA Asthma and Airway Disease Research Center, will lead an effort to teach children, families, teachers and school nurses how to manage asthma.

Dr. Gerald is co-principal investigator for a project that is funded by an $8.5 million grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to bring two widely successful programs that will improve asthma care over a six-year period to the Navajo Nation. This is the first large effort to address health disparities in the Navajo Nation where asthma rates are two to three times higher than in the general population.

The project will be managed through a collaboration between National Jewish Health, the nation’s leading respiratory hospital, and the UA Asthma and Airway Disease Research Center. The project will utilize the National Jewish Health Asthma Toolkit Program that has been used to teach caregivers across Colorado how to diagnose and manage asthma, and the University of Arizona School Asthma Program, which has provided asthma education and care coordination through public and private schools. The grant is one of only four awarded to reduce health disparities for children with asthma.

“This is by far the largest and most exciting project I’ve been involved with,” said Bruce Bender, PhD, co-principal investigator, head of the Division of Pediatric Behavioral Health and co-director of the Center for Health Promotion at National Jewish Health. “Our overall goal is to build a lasting program that is sustainable for the people of the Navajo Nation.”

“I am very excited to be part of this important collaboration with the Navajo Nation. The health care facilities, schools, epidemiology center, and community members have been very supportive, and I believe we can work together to reduce childhood asthma disparities on the Navajo Nation,” said Dr. Gerald. 

Community advisory committees will be created to provide guidance and help form working partnerships with school systems, the Navajo Health Department, chapter houses and any other interested community groups.

The programs will be implemented in Tuba City, Chinle and Fort Defiance on the Navajo Nation. The programs will occur consecutively, one year each in each of the locations. This approach will allow investigators to compare outcomes before and after the program within each community. After the final program, there are two follow-up years where sustainability will be evaluated.

Researchers will measure several outcomes in each community. They will look at whether the program has reduced asthma exacerbations by looking at changes in urgent care visits, hospitalizations, oral steroid bursts, and whether families are filling the child’s prescribed asthma medication.

This research was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health under grant number 1U01HL138689-01.

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