US Climate and Health Alliance

The Head-off Environmental Asthma in Louisiana (HEAL) Study—Methods and Study Population


Background: In the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, and surrounding parishes (NOLA), children with asthma were perilously impacted by Hurricane Katrina as a result of disrupted health care, high home mold and allergen levels, and high stress.Objectives: The Head-off Environmental Asthma in Louisiana (HEAL) study was conducted to examine relationships between the post-Katrina environment and childhood asthma in NOLA and assess a novel asthma counselor intervention that provided case management and guidance for reducing home mold and allergen levels.Methods: Children (4–12 years old) with moderate-to-severe asthma were recruited from NOLA schools. Over 1 year, they received two clinical evaluations, three home environmental evaluations, and the asthma intervention. Quarterly end points included symptom days, medication use, and unscheduled emergency department or clinic visits. A community advisory group was assembled and informed HEAL at all phases.Results: Of the children (n = 182) enrolled in HEAL, 67% were African American, and 25% came from households with annual incomes < $15, 000. HEAL children were symptomatic, averaging 6.6 symptom days in the 2 weeks before baseline, and had frequent unscheduled visits to clinics or emergency departments (76% had at least one unscheduled visit in the preceding 3 months). In this report, we describe study design and baseline characteristics of HEAL children.Conclusions: Despite numerous challenges faced by investigators, study staff, and participants, including destroyed infrastructure, disrupted lives, and lost jobs, HEAL was successful in terms of recruitment and retention, the high quality of data collected that will provide insight into asthma-allergen relationships, and the asthma intervention. This success was attributable to using an adaptive approach and refining processes as needed.

Resource Type
Peer-reviewed article
Patricia C. Chulada Suzanne Kennedy Mosanda M. Mvula Katy Jaffee Jeremy Wildfire Eleanor Thornton Richard D. Cohn L. Faye Grimsley Herman Mitchell Jane El-Dahr Yvonne Sterling William J. Martin LuAnn White Kevin U. Stephens Maureen Lichtveld
Resource URL
Environmental Health Perspectives
Aug 15, 2012
Health and Human Impact
Respiratory disease
Climate and Environmental Impact
Extreme weather events
Public health/health sector response

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