Zeneca promotes its BREATHE program

Reaching urban children is a priority

Throughout 1999, Zeneca Pharmaceuticals will be rolling out its BREATHE Program, a national education campaign aimed at teaching children and parents in urban environments about prevention and treatments. The campaign, unveiled last November in Philadelphia, will be introduced in major urban regions throughout the year. The program stands for Bringing Education on Asthma to Homes Everywhere.

The company is partnering with the Magic Johnson Foundation, which has expanded its scope to include programs for youth, especially those living in inner cities.

Destination: Atlanta

The BREATHE Program was introduced in Atlanta in March. Zeneca donated 1,000 peak flow meters to help asthmatics improve the way they monitor their condition. Zeneca also awarded grants to fund educational programs by the state and local Atlanta chapter of the Georgia School Nurses Association and Inman Middle School and the Hughes Spalding Children’s Hospital, both also in Atlanta.

Zeneca President Robert C. Black has noted his firm’s commitment to patient education.

Urban areas also represent huge potential markets for its products, including ACCOLATE, a leukotriene receptor antagonist prescribed nearly 3.5 million times in the United States for patients ages 12 and younger.

Among the BREATHE Program’s components:

Bilingual education materials. This includes bilingual print and interactive on-line materials targeted at children, adolescents, and their families. The goal is to distribute the materials widely through community health groups, family physicians, respiratory specialists, and other providers and delivery systems.

An interactive Web site at www.breatheinfo.com. This offers viewers electronic versions of the printed materials and an opportunity to receive updates on the BREATHE Program through an e-mail link. Materials also can be ordered through the Web site.

Education grants. These will help fund local health initiatives and regional- and community-based events in cities where Zeneca introduces new elements of the program.

An art competition. This is open to urban children and adolescents who create asthma-related artwork. As the BREATHE Program travels across the country, so will asthma information and artwork from the contest.

Peak flow meters: Zeneca is donating thousands of peak flow meters, as the program travels across the country.

Asthma is the No. 1 reason for school absences due to chronic illness. And it’s a problem that disproportionately strikes minorities and people living in urban environments. The problem probably touches on shortcomings in health care delivery, psychosocial influences, environment, cultural issues, and adherence to treatments, says Frederick Leickly, MD, associate professor of medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis.

In 1993, African-American children and adults were three to four times more likely than whites to be hospitalized for asthma. They were four to six times more likely to die from it, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a part of the National Institutes of Health.

"It’s unacceptable that hospitalizations and deaths have risen, especially in minority communities," says Floyd J. Malveaux, MD, PhD, and College of Medicine dean at Howard University in Washington, DC.

Possible culprits: pollution, cigarette smoke, dust mites, cats, cockroaches, and molds — all of which are more prevalent in urban areas with large minorities populations.

In many urban environments, cockroaches may play a major role, says Allan Rashford, MD, a pulmonologist in private practice in Charleston, SC., where the combination of hot, humid weather and old structures makes roach infestations common. Yet, practitioners may be hesitant to discuss with patients the fact that they may have cockroaches in their homes, Rashford adds.

Higher percentages of African-Americans and Hispanics than whites also live in areas that don’t comply with national air quality standards for particulate matter, carbon dioxide, ozone, sulfur dioxide, and lead. For example, about 52% of all whites live in counties with high ozone concentrations compared to 62% of African-Americans and 71% of Hispanics, according to the American Lung Association.

Then there are issues such as access to education, inadequate access to health care and failure to take medications properly. "There is no one problem to account for it all," says Leickly, a principal investigator of the National Cooperative Inner-City Asthma Study.

In 1991, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease launched the first inner-city study. After reviewing the results, it began a second multicenter study that involves disseminating the results of the first study.

The first study found the presence of risk factors including high levels of indoor allergens, especially cockroach allergens; and high indoor levels of nitrogen dioxide, a respiratory irritant produced by poorly vented stoves and heating appliances. Many patients also reported trouble getting follow-up care for their asthma.