AAFA’s HEAL Innovation Program partners with Breathe SoCal to promote health equity and asthma care for the most vulnerable populations in Southern California

Sponsored by Amgen
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Clean air and the ability to take a deep breath into healthy lungs is a luxury many vulnerable communities across America don’t have. Those living with asthma, in particular, bear the brunt of the burden with air pollution and limited health resources exacerbating their condition. And air pollution is just one of the many determinants of health that too often disproportionately impact underserved communities. This year, wildfires have raised the stakes even higher for those with asthma in Southern California.

Amgen is committed to helping reduce the burden of asthma for these communities, and has taken action by partnering with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) on their new initiative, Health Equity Advancement and Leadership (HEAL) Innovation. HEAL Innovation is a multiyear, multicity initiative that will support local organizations with different tailored programs to help patients most at-risk reduce their burden of asthma. Amgen is the exclusive sponsor of the first year with a $1 million contribution that will help four community-based pilot programs.

Gilmar J. Flores is a leader of Breathe SoCal, one of the four participating programs. He sat down with Ponda Motsepe-Ditshego, vice president and global medical therapeutic area head, General Medicine, at Amgen, to discuss HEAL Innovation’s progress, challenges, and a future of hope for Southern California’s asthma population.

PMD: First, can you tell us about Breathe SoCal and what the organization strives to do for the local community?

GF: Breathe Southern California (Breathe SoCal) is a non-profit organization established in 1903. Our mission is to promote clean air and healthy lungs through research, education, advocacy, and technology to the most vulnerable populations in Southern California. Based on our relationships with more than 200 community partners, we’ve provided public health programs that educate, inform, and assist patients and provided community programs that engage the public to advocate for cleaner air. Breathe SoCal’s official HEAL program, the Breathe Easier™ Asthma Management (BEAM) Project, will address the needs of individuals with asthma in underserved communities of Los Angeles County that bear some of the heaviest burdens of asthma.

PMD: What are the top challenges the HEAL Innovation program seeks to address in your local community?

GF: Breathe SoCal’s BEAM project aims to reduce asthma-related urgent care and emergency department visits in underserved communities that bear some of the heaviest burden of asthma due to their low socioeconomic status, proximity to high-polluted industrial facilities, and the presence of several major highways.

Our three primary goals are to provide and reinforce asthma self-management education in a culturally appropriate manner, address any home environmental concerns to reduce asthma triggers, and connect individuals/families with resources to address barriers to care.

PMD: What details can you share about how the HEAL Innovation program is coming together?

GF: We are establishing a partnership with many Federally Qualified Health Centers and nonprofit organizations in the East and Southeast portions of Los Angeles County to ensure that we can provide resources that address barriers to the individuals who participate in our program.

The BEAM Project expects to serve between 80 and 100 participants, providing an estimated 220-245 visits over a two-year period. By providing this community service, our team hopes to better understand the needs and challenges faced by crucial underserved populations in Los Angeles, especially as California pushes the renewable energy conversation.

PMD: What are your goals for the HEAL Innovation program?

GF: The self-reported data collected from individuals and families participating in the program will include health care utilization and needs assessments. This information will give Breathe SoCal a snapshot of patient/family progress throughout the home visit period and their needs—allowing Breathe SoCal to improve not only the BEAM program but also the rest of its public health programs and to advocate on issues most important to the community.

PMD: What about the program are you the most excited about?

GF: One significant aspect we are excited about is our partnership with other organizations to conduct the BEAM project. The goal is to lessen the disparities in access to support services among individuals and families affected by asthma. We have addressed the various social determinants of health these individuals are facing.

As a closing thought, Flores said of the HEAL Innovation collaboration with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, “Breathe SoCal alone cannot do this, but through our partners, we will be able to reduce the burden asthma has on the underserved communities in Los Angeles.”

Learn more about HEAL Innovation here and find out more about Breathe SoCal here.