Connecting the Dots in Fulton County, GA: Working Together to Save Lives

May 10, 2013

According to the 2013 County Health Rankings, Fulton County, Georgia ranks 29 out of 156 on overall health, yet 55,000 adults and 25,000 children in the county suffer from asthma. Tragically some of them die, including most recently, a 10 year old girl and an 11 year old boy.

For years the Fulton County Health Department conducted in-home visits to assess asthma risk. For years the Grady Health System in Fulton County, GA admitted the same people to their emergency room, treating them for asthma attacks. The two systems weren’t communicating until people came together as part of a CDC National Leadership Academy for Public Health program training. As one of twenty teams selected across the nation, the Fulton team focused on reducing asthma because with so many people suffering and children dying, it was a clear health imperative. Says Nazeera Dawood, Health Promotion Program Manager for Fulton Health Department, “The only way we could combat this was to stop working in silos and get everyone working together.” The grant, initiated by the Fulton Public Health Department, helped accomplish that goal.

The Asthma Coalition began by targeting 100 children on the list of most frequent emergency room visits, aligning it with public health’s list of home-visits. By comparing public health’s assessment data with the health system’s list of children, they were able to target specific housing areas that were the source of air quality problems. The assessments showed that molds and allergens were exacerbated by poor quality air filters. The group is working with the Atlanta Housing Authority to upgrade its policy, which now requires landlords to use a higher grade air filter and change filters more frequently. The coalition is also working to change the facility managers’ intake policy to now include a question for new residents about whether they know of anyone with an asthma concern.

Further, the coalition has embarked on a major media campaign to reach the general population through radio messages and television spots.  They are working through the schools to reach parents about the importance of keeping homes clean and dust-free, and holding regular events throughout the county to raise awareness about asthma and its causes. Improvements are being measured by the reduction in number of ER return visits. The coalition’s goal is to reduce asthma morbidity by 65% through targeting specific high risk areas.

Today the Asthma Coalition, part of Fulton County’s Health Promotion Advisory Coalition (HPAC), is making changes in policies, systems and the environment that will improve the quality of life for hundreds of children and families, and save lives as well.  Health has become a “common ground” in the county, as evidenced by the number of conversations happening for the first time between residents and key stakeholders, including faith-based organizations, healthcare, education, public health, business, and policy leaders. By working together, as Rodney Mullins, HPAC’s co-chair says, “We connected the dots.” 

Additional links:
Fulton Asthma Improvement & Reduction (FAIR) coalition  Fact sheet & Flyer
HPAC Milestone Report 2012 
Roadmaps to Health Action Guide: Work Together