VCU professor receives $4.73M grant to launch program that will help Richmond children with asthma

Virginia Commonwealth University psychology professor has received a $4.73 million grant that aims to improve the overall health and well-being of children with asthma in Richmond.

vcuThe six-year grant, “RVA Breathes: A Richmond City Collaboration to Reduce Pediatric Asthma Disparities,” was awarded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health to Robin S. Everhart, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences.

“Pediatric asthma is manageable, but it is not curable,” Everhart said. “It can be challenging for families to manage their child’s asthma at home and at school and, in fact, Richmond is often named the ‘asthma capital’ or ‘most challenging place to live in the U.S. with asthma.’ Research has shown that children living in urban centers, such as Richmond, experience worse asthma outcomes. This grant will provide a comprehensive, community-based asthma care program for those children at highest risk for poor asthma outcomes.”

RVA Breathes will be a one-year program for elementary age children that will coordinate asthma care across four sectors — the family, home, community and medical care. Children and their families will participate in a randomized clinical trial that includes a 12-month follow-up period to assess the impact of the program on child asthma outcomes.

The program will involve family-based asthma self-management education delivered by community health workers with the Institute for Public Health Innovation; home environmental remediation with Richmond City Health District’s Healthy Homes Initiative; and a school nurse component, with elementary schools in the Richmond Public Schools.

“A major goal of the six-year grant is to implement RVA Breathes as a sustainable program in the Richmond community,” Everhart said.

Co-investigators and collaborators on RVA Breathes include faculty and staff in the Department of Psychology, the Department of Health Behavior and Policy in the School of Medicine, the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, the Center on Society and Health, the Center for Health Disparities, the Office of Health Innovation, and the School of Nursing.

“This project will test our ability to successfully introduce evidence-based community interventions that are specifically customized for use in Richmond, and to sustain these efforts once the research component is finished,” said Michael Schechter, M.D., professor and chief, Division of Pulmonary Medicine and director of the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU’s UCAN community asthma program funded by Children’s Hospital Foundation. “I have been thrilled to work with Dr. Everhart and the rest of the research team in developing this program, and now, for the sake of the children of Richmond, I look forward to seeing its successful implementation.”

The team is also working closely with Engaging Richmond, a community-academic partnership at the Center on Society and Heath.

Partners in the Richmond community include Richmond Public Schools, the Institute for Public Health Innovation and the Richmond City Health District.

“Using a community-based participatory research approach, RVA Breathes was developed with feedback from Richmond City parents and children with asthma,” Everhart said. “Families spoke with us over the course of a year in a needs-assessment grant (U34 HL130759; Everhart, PI) and were instrumental in shaping RVA Breathes into the program it is today. I would like to thank them for their hard work and their investment in improving the lives of children with asthma.”

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