Member Spotlight: Parent Asthma Network

Parents and Youth Taking Control of the Asthma Epidemic in Boston

Background: The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) created the Parent Asthma Network (PAN) to develop a support network for and between parents/caregivers who may be facing similar successes and challenges in managing asthma. PAN participants can connect with others who live in the same vicinity and increase their ability to provide each other with critical peer support.

Over the decades, BPHC has been a leader in convening community and key stakeholders to address the root causes of Boston’s heavy asthma burden as well as model prevention and control initiatives. Even though there have been tremendous medical advances in asthma control, and much is now known about medical and non-medical ways to prevent and control asthma, there is still opportunity for more to be done. Asthma rates, emergency room visits, hospitalization stays and deaths due to asthma persist at an unacceptably high rate. Asthma remains a complex issue and can be very confusing for anyone to understand and manage. While BPHC, partner agencies and community members continue working to address the systemic and environmental contributors to asthma, we also need to ensure the immediate burden at hand is being addressed.

PAN Overview: Through PAN and related initiatives, BPHC’s goal is to ensure the wide spread of accurate information about asthma, encourage individuals and communities to learn about and use effective asthma management practices, and make use of the numerous resources and supports available throughout Boston. PAN was piloted from the Fall of 2017 to Spring 2018 with great interest and success and continues with funding support from the MA Department of Public Health (MDPH). MDPH and BPHC’s seasoned community health workers (CHWs) provide key mentorship and three experienced Parent Asthma Leaders (PALs) through Health Resources in Action (HRiA) also provide support. To date, PAN has engaged over 150 individuals. BPHC aims to expand the network of parents and support the training of more PALs who can be a resource to their communities and networks.

How PAN Works: PAN is run as facilitated group sessions that focus on key topic areas with guest speakers and opportunities for sharing experiences and ideas. PAN sessions are currently being hosted by the ABCD Head Start Geneva Ave site in Dorchester and East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (run in Spanish).  Each site runs multiple sessions during the academic year and features a range of topics and activities, including asthma basics, asthma medication, asthma and nutrition, asthma and back to school prep, asthma and environmental health, MassHealth/asthma, and emergency preparedness.

During these sessions, participants learn from each other and dialogue with guest speakers from agencies including Boston Inspectional Services, BPHC’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and the Mayor’s Health Line, East Boston Neighborhood Health Center, and Partners Asthma Center.

A pre/post-quiz is given to participants at the beginning and end of each session to help them in their learning process. An evaluation is conducted at the end of each session to ensure participants are contributing to the design and shape of successful meetings and activities. Participants also get to voice what topics they would like to see at future sessions.

When asked what they found most meaningful about workshops, participants said:

“Now I have a better understanding of the asthma action plan. I find this information useful and appropriate. Thank you.” – PAN participant

“There was time for questions and answers, love this workshop well informed, other parents, much knowledge was shared in this room. Thank you!” – PAN participant

“Great workshop. Very interesting and interesting topic” – PAN participant

PAN was conceived and is coordinated by Nathalie Bazil, BSW, CCHW, Senior CHW and Coordinator for the BPHC Asthma Prevention and Control Program. The three PALs from HRiA are also instrumental in the success of PAN. The PALs are dedicated members of the community who took a stand over 20 years ago to ensure the city was taking responsibility for the high asthma rates in Boston. Since then, the PALs have been part of efforts and conversations with a range of key city agencies and sit on numerous advisory boards. Through PAN, BPHC hopes to see a new generation of PALs who can be mentored by the current representatives. PAN has been a tremendous success, and we hope to see it only expand further into communities as an effective model for collective awareness and action. BPHC is currently working with partners on a new network for and by youth and young adults. For more information contact