Asthma education program, clinic to begin Monday

on September 14, 2013

West Contra Costa residents with respiratory problems may soon breathe a little easier.

The first asthma clinic in Contra Costa County is slated to open later this month. The clinic is part of a larger county government program that starts Monday.

The West County Health Center, which opened in San Pablo in 2012 to replace the old Richmond Health Center, is rolling out a program designed to help patients with asthma and respiratory problems to better take care of themselves.

“We’re opening up our community-based education to teach people in the community how to better manage their asthma through a series of classes,” Janyth Bolden, director of cardiopulmonary services, which includes respiratory therapy, at Contra Costa Regional Medical Center, said.

The program consists of a series of four classes, which are free and taught by respiratory therapists with special training in asthma education. Classes are on consecutive Mondays from 5 to 6:30 p.m.

“We will go over what is asthma, what causes your asthma to flare up, what you need to do, what medications you are taking and how to take them effectively, and how to change your lifestyle so you can reduce or prevent asthma flare ups,” Bolden said, adding that the program will also help advise people what to tell their doctors during a check-up.

Asthma rates in children in West Contra Costa are among the highest in the nation at 16.1 percent, nearly twice the national rate of 9.5 percent, according to 2007 data from Contra Costa Health Services and 2011 data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Bolden said the project was borne out of an idea to reduce the amount of patients respiratory therapists see at hospitals and to help curb the amount of emergency room visits for patients with respiratory problems.

The classes are designed for specific age groups, beginning with adults on Monday. Classes for children and teens will follow.

After the classes begin, patients can be referred to physicians at the health center to be seen for asthma and respiratory problems in a new clinic. Bolden said the respiratory therapists and physicians are coming from within the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center network. Patients screened at the clinic should expect to pay fees similar to a standard doctor’s visit, according to Bolden.

She said a similar program was in place from 2005 to 2006, but didn’t have sustainability, so the West County Health Center is rolling out the program slowly to keep the momentum going.

“We have the ability to expand this department because the need is there,” she said.

Residents can also expect to see community groups that help people gain access to health care, such as Healthy Richmond, to promote the program.

“Asthma is one of the long-standing chronic diseases for West Contra Costa County, particularly where we are,” Roxanne Carillo Garza, hub manager for Healthy Richmond, said. “I definitely think it (the program) will be a benefit to the community.”

Classes will be held at 13601 San Pablo Ave. in San Pablo. For more information or to sign up for the asthma classes, call 510-231-8640.

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