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New pilot programs in Detroit take aim at health barriers to kids' education

Jack Lawrence
Flickr Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM
Asthma is the single leading health cause of school days missed, says Detroit's health director.

More than $1 million in foundation and state grants are going to the Detroit Health Department for five new initiatives aimed at addressing health problems of Detroit children, the Department announced today.

The goal is to reduce health barriers that interfere with school attendance and learning.

"We're focusing on a number of critical outcomes that really affect children's health and keep them out of the classroom and prevent them from being able to learn and, in the future, earn," said Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, executive director of the Detroit Health Department.

The new programs focus on supporting early childhood development, reducing teen pregnancy and childhood asthma, and protecting families from environmental hazards.

The asthma initiative is called D-REACT for Detroit Responsive Environment for Asthma Care and Treatment.

"Asthma is the single leading health cause of school days missed," said El-Sayed. "So if you can keep a kid breathing, you can keep a kid in school, you can keep them learning, and you can set them up for their future."

D-REACT will create a network of "smart inhalers" supplied to Detroit kids with asthma, and this will generate real-time information on the health impact of air quality to help reduce asthma sick days.

"You can come to understand air quality in a particular micro-climate," El-Sayed said. "And then you move that information out to families with children with asthma. You can say, 'Today's a bad air day, and you might want to make sure that junior has his or her inhaler – whether or not that's a smart inhaler." 

The data will also be supplied anonymously to create a real-time map of areas where poor air quality may be triggering asthma symptoms.

El-Sayed said the grants will support start-up projects. "And then over time the hope is to scale them across the city," said El-Sayed. "And we're confident that the projects that we're building have all been tried in other places to much success."

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