Alliance Members Meet with U.S. EPA Official

Alliance members discuss population health, the Alliance’s mission and demo a new high-tech asthma inhaler device.

Penny Williams, left, director of Emergency Services for Children's Health, led Gina McCarthy, administrator of the U.S. EPA, on a tour of the Children's Health emergency department. They discussed the Children's Health efforts to treat asthma patients presenting to the ER. (Photo: Juan Pulido, Children's Health)

Penny Williams, left, director of Emergency Services for Children’s Health, led Gina McCarthy, administrator of the U.S. EPA, on a tour of the Children’s Health emergency department. They discussed the Children’s Health efforts to treat asthma patients presenting to the ER. (Photo: Juan Pulido, Children’s Health)

Members of the Health and Wellness Alliance for Children met with one of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s top brass today to discuss the important work the Alliance is doing to reduce the effects of asthma in North Texas children.

Gina McCarthy, Administrator of the U.S. EPA, has spent much of her career working on critical environmental issues, including air quality. During McCarthy’s visit to Children’s Health (the founding member of the Alliance), Alliance members talked to her about:

  • Population health
  • The Alliance’s role and mission
  • A new high-tech asthma inhaler device that reports patients’ usage to Children’s Health staff

National and local EPA involvement

Although visits from federal EPA leaders are rare, the Alliance counts a regional EPA leader, Paula Selzer, among its membership. Selzer, who helped organize McCarthy’s meeting with Alliance members, is the regional coordinator for Children’s Environmental Health, EPA Region 6. She’s also a member of the Alliance steering committee for asthma, and serves on the Healthy Environments Working Group, one of four asthma-related working groups in the Alliance.

This Alliance working group has been introducing asthma experts to local code compliance officers and educating them about how to properly inspect homes for asthma triggers. The Alliance and City of Dallas code enforcers are partnering around the common goal of enforcing code compliance in apartment complexes, with a new objective of improving specific conditions that are harmful for kids suffering from asthma.

Improving asthma at the population level

It’s partnerships like the one among the Alliance, Children’s Health and local code enforcers that will transform the health and well-being of children in the communities we serve, Peter Roberts, Executive Vice President, Population Health and Network Development for Children’s Health, told McCarthy during her visit. These types of efforts are designed to help children where they live, work and play. Roberts is also the co-chair of the Alliance’s asthma steering committee.

To further illustrate this, Cheryl Boswell, executive director of the Alliance, showed McCarthy the Alliance’s “Who We Are” video, which talks about the poor health of many North Texas children, despite the area’s economic health.

“It’s disturbing to see the poverty rates and these difficult issues for children in such a thriving city,” McCarthy said after watching the Alliance’s video.

Boswell explained to McCarthy that the Alliance’s mission is to reach the community to measurably show improvements in the health and well-being of our children.

Children's Health is piloting a new device that tracks patients' asthma inhaler medications.

Children’s Health is piloting a new device that tracks patients’ asthma inhaler medications.

Demo of high-tech asthma device

Alliance members also demonstrated to McCarthy the new Propeller Bluetooth device that tracks when and how often patients use their inhaled medications. Children’s Health launched a pilot program using the device with patients from the Crystal Charity Ball grant group of high-risk asthma patients.

McCarthy saw how the Children’s Health staff receives automatic alerts when these patients use their inhaler above their baseline. The goal is to increase self-management of asthma and reduce costly emergency room visits by using this technology to notify the asthma staff prior to the patient needing care.

Gina McCarthy, center, administrator of the U.S. EPA, visited with several members of the Alliance on April 10, 2015, including, from left, Peter Roberts with Children’s Health; Ron Curry with EPA Region 6; Cheryl Boswell with the Alliance; and Paula Selzer with EPA Region 6.