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AIM Winter 2012 Newsletter

The Road Map for Better Breathings
by Jenese Reynolds, MD

The national asthma guidelines say that all people who have asthma should have a written asthma action plan. They are especially needed by people who have moderate or severe asthma, a history of severe flare-ups, or poorly controlled asthma. But, like a quick-relief inhaler, even those with rare symptoms need to have one on hand. The plan should explain what to do for: 1) daily treatment (with medications and environmental controls), and 2) how to recognize and handle worsening asthma.

There are many different asthma action plan formats, the best one is the one that works the best for the person with asthma and/or their caregiver. It can be peak flow- or symptom-based, and range from very simple to very detailed. When making a written asthma action plan with a patient, a clinician should:
  • think about the reading level of the patient and use a plan that they will understand.
  • avoid using any medical jargon and write briefly and clearly.
  • instruct patients/caregivers to use the action plan for exposure to a known trigger, including a cold or flu.
  • consider adding the option of doubling inhaled corticosteroids, or adding oral steroids, in the yellow zone.
  • be sure patients/caregivers understand exactly what to do and how long to stay in the yellow or red zones before contacting the doctor's office or seeking emergency care.
  • include contact information for during and after office hours.
  • ask if a child carries their inhaler at school – they will need to know when, and show how, to use the inhaler correctly. The school will need a copy of the action plan with the clinician's signature.
Patients and/or caregivers should: asthma action plan
  • read the plan back to the clinician to make sure they know exactly what to do.
  • ask questions about the steps if they do not make sense or if they will have trouble following them.
  • not agree to an action plan that they do not plan to follow. If the plan will not work, tell the clinician so that a better plan can be made together.
  • get copies of the plan for all the places that need one, i.e. home, babysitter, and workplace. Put the plan where it can be found easily, like on the refrigerator door.
The action plan should be reviewed at every visit. One good way to do that is to talk about times when asthma might be a problem and what should be done. For instance, a clinician could ask "If you find yourself in a smoky place and start having symptoms, what would you do?" If asthma control gets better or worse, the plan should be changed and reviewed again with the patient and/or caregiver. If it's kept up-to-date and each step is clear, an asthma action plan can be the road map that keeps a person with asthma breathing easier wherever they go, whatever they do.

Dr. Reynolds is a family physician with expertise in providing clinical care to adults and children with asthma. She is a member of the faculty at the Michigan State University Family Medicine Residency Center in Flint, Michigan, and Assistant Professor at the MSU College of Human Medicine.
How Does Michigan Rate? Asthma Action Plans

To learn whether people with asthma were getting asthma action plans from their doctors, the Michigan Asthma Call Back Survey (2005-2009) asked: "An asthma action plan, or asthma management plan, is a form with instructions about when to change the amount or type of medicine, when to call the doctor for advice, and when to go to the emergency room. Has a doctor or other health professional ever given you an asthma action plan?"
  • Only 25 percent of Michigan adults with current asthma said that they have ever received an asthma action plan. Michigan is similar to the national median (26%). Michigan males reported receiving one less frequently (19.6%) than females (28.3%). Black adults reported receiving one more frequently (33.3%) than white adults (23.7%), but this result was not quite statistically significant. There were not statistically significant differences by educational level or income.
  • More than 40 percentof Michigan children ages 0-17 with asthma said they had ever received an asthma action plan.

EPA National Leadership Award Opportunity

Since 2005, the U.S. EPA has awarded health plans, health care providers and communities in action National Environmental Leadership Awards in Asthma Management, the nation's highest honor for their leadership in asthma management, delivery of comprehensive asthma services, and achievement of remarkable quality-of-life improvements for people with asthma.

If your program's work 1) addresses environmental triggers as part of a comprehensive asthma program, 2) fosters high-performing collaborations and partnerships, and 3) improves the daily lives of those with asthma by promoting healthy homes, schools and workplaces - you should apply for this award. Four programs from Michigan have won in previous years: the Asthma Network of West Michigan, the Genesee County Asthma Network, Priority Health and the University of Michigan Health System. Is this your program's year?

Apply today for the opportunity to be nationally recognized for your accomplishments!
Deadline is February 21, 2012.

Michigan Asthma Calendar
24-25 Freedom From Smoking Facilitator Training, Genesee County Health Department McCree Courts & Human Services Building, Flint, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Tues., 9 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. Wed. For more info: Register, Questions: Patty Inman, 810.931.1425

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