PALMDALE — Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger unveiled the Breathmobile — a new mobile clinic that will visit Antelope Valley schools to treat youngsters with asthma and allergies — at a Friday afternoon ceremony at Dos Caminos Dual Immersion School.
The mobile clinic will provide asthma management including tests, medications, and education for children and their parents at no cost to local families. The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services operates the mobile clinic based out of the High Desert Regional Health Center in Lancaster.
“This truly is a very exciting day for this community. This is something that we have been working on for quite a while,” Barger said at the ceremony, attended by children, parents, Palmdale School District trustees, administrators, county officials and other community leaders.
There is a huge need in the Antelope Valley for the Breathmobile, the supervisor said.
“The statistics prove it,” Barger said. “Our Los Angeles County Department of Health Services confirmed that 14.2% of children have asthma in the Antelope Valley and don’t have access to services. That is far too many of our youth — from infants to teenagers — who are suffering.”
Palmdale School District was the first local school district to join the program.
“In our community we have a lot of great students, but we also know that we have a lot of needs,” Palmdale School District Superintendent Raul Maldonado said.
Palmdale School District trustee Nancy Smith toured the Breathmobile prior to the ceremony.
“I think it’s wonderful that we’re going to have access for this for our kids,” Smith said.
Smith added the education portion that district parents are going to receive is also important.
“So they understand how to give their children the correct medication and what to watch for … because when their kids miss school and their kids are sick, they lose their education for that day,” Smith said. “It’s important that they’re here every day to get the best education that they can get.”
“We hope to drive all across the Antelope Valley and find everybody who has asthma,” Quentin O’Brien, CEO for the Ambulatory Care Network of the L.A. County Department of Health Services said.
O’Brien added the Breathmobile program is based on forming strong relationships with school districts and working with school health staff to improve the health of children with asthma.
“We really appreciate the Palmdale School District was one of the first school districts to express interest in participating in this program,” O’Brien said.
Agreements are finalized with Antelope Valley Union High School District, Lancaster School District, Westside Union School District and Wilsona School District, O’Brien added.
The childhood asthma rate in the Antelope Valley is estimated to be 65% higher than the U.S. average. A survey done for the county Department of Public Health’s 2017 Key Indicators of Health analysis said 14.2% of children from infants to 17 year olds have asthma in the Antelope Valley, compared to 7.4% countywide and 8.6% nationally.
Another 34.2% of children in the Antelope Valley reported that they had to go to the emergency room or urgent care due to asthma.
“As I said, our goal is the right care at the right time in the right place,” O’Brien said. “It’s the primary care and the maintenance that’s most important, and that’s what our team is going to bring you.”
The Breathmobile is a 35-foot-long motorhome staffed by a nurse practitioner, a registered nurse, a licensed vocational nurse and two community health workers. It will visit schools on a rotating schedule every six to eight weeks for staff to see children whose parents sign them up to participate.
The Breathmobile’s goal is to help keep children’s asthma well-controlled and decrease visits to hospital emergency rooms and urgent care centers, and to reduce the number of days children miss school.
Dr. Lyne Scott of the Keck School of Medicine of USC said they helped replicate the Breathmobile program at different cities across the nation.
“Across all ethnicities, across all levels of income, and across different geographic areas, we know that kids who come see us get better,” Scott said.
Children in the program have on average on 87% reduction in hospitalizations, 67% reduction in emergency room visits, and 83% improvement in school attendance.
Checking and treating children at their schools is more convenient for families than scheduling doctor visits, which usually require missing more school, officials said. The Breathmobile staff will provide a treatment plan for each child for parents to share with the child’s regular physician.
The L.A. County Department of Health Services personnel who will staff the Antelope Valley Breathmobile trained with the staff of the Breathmobiles operated through Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center in metropolitan Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Breathmobile was established in 1995 as the first mobile pediatric asthma management program in the United States.
The Breathmobile will treat asthma sufferers starting at age two, so parents can bring younger children to schools to be seen when the Breathmobile visits. Among the children seen by the Los Angeles Breathmobiles, 85% reach “well controlled” status for their asthma by their third visit, and 96% by their third visit, according to county statistics.