The East Harlem Asthma Center of Excellence buzzed with excitement as families gathered to participate in the graduation ceremony post completion of a breathing exercises and other self-management tools training program. The event took place in the center Friday, June 28.

In this program leaders are working with young people to train them in breathing exercises and other self-management tools for both children who suffer from asthma and their caregivers. Effective asthma management requires care coordination with providers, controlling and avoiding triggers, managing symptoms and proper use of medications. In New York City, asthma disproportionately affects children of color, with rates of asthma more than four times higher among Black (16.3 percent) and Latino (15.5 percent) children compared to white (3.7 percent) children. Participants in the EHACE program experienced 62 percent reduction in hospitalizations, 56 percent reduction in emergency department visits and a 42 percent reduction in school absences due to asthma.

“It has been beneficial to me and my granddaughter,” states Williams, a family graduating with a 7-year-old whose ER visits and symptoms decreased greatly since entering the program. “It educated me a lot. There’s a lot of things I didn’t know about asthma. I know how to clean my house and use the medication correctly with the help of the Medication Administration Form.”

“We also encourage families to have an Asthma Action Plan in case of emergencies,” says Hector Correa, a counsellor at the EHACE. “It’s for daycares, babysitters, or any other person taking care of a child with asthma to know what to do if there’s a need.”

Correa also shared that families receive assistance in their homes by having their homes cleaned which reduces triggers like mold, dust mite and cockroaches. They also hold fun and free events for children, such as arts and crafts and winter holiday activities.

“I encourage all families in Harlem to take advantage of this program,” said Correa. “It’s a safe, non judgmental place that is good for support.”

“I like that I can call them and they’re there for me,” Williams reiterated.

Since 2008, the Asthma Counselor Program at EHACE has provided culturally and linguistically appropriate asthma counseling, including individual case management services, to more than 1,300 children and their families from East Harlem, as well as Central Harlem, the South Bronx and other neighborhoods. The program serves children ages 0 to 17 and works with families for one year. Families graduate from the program with skills and knowledge to properly manage asthma symptoms. EHACE is part of the Harlem Neighborhood Health Action Center.