Linda Zittleman is the Associate Director for the High Plains Research Network. This is the last in a series of articles for an asthma awareness project in eastern Colorado by the High Plains Research Community Advisory Council.

Asthma attacks are caused by swelling of the airways in the lungs, which leaves people struggling to get their breath. That adds up to a lot of time feeling sick, missed work and school, and money for emergency room visits.

Many people with asthma have feelings of anxiety and sadness. Children with asthma may have trouble keeping up in school and may be left out of activities when they are not feeling well.

With the right support, life can be normal for people with asthma. A new program called Asthma Toolkits provides this support.

A number of clinics in Fort Morgan have participated in the program, including Salud, Fort Morgan Medical Group, Fort Morgan Internal Medicine, Family Care Practice and Dr. Stephen Godar. The program is a partnership between National Jewish Health and the High Plains Research Network.

The Asthma Toolkits program includes training and equipment for doctors to better diagnose and treat asthma, including spirometry. Spirometry measures lung function. Family Care Practice is doing eight to 10 more spirometry tests each month, helping patients to have better control of their asthma.

“Spirometry allows me to provide more effective treatment for patients,” Dr. Stephen Godar commented. “I can determine therapy and discuss the results with the patient; it really changes what I can accomplish in a single office visit.”

The Toolkit program also includes a free “toolkit” for patients, with helpful information on asthma, a peak flow meter for measuring breathing at home, and symptoms diaries. Providers can also give patients asthma action plans.

The staff at Fort Morgan Medical Group has started to have patients keep symptom diaries, and advises patients to bring them back at their follow-up visit. Using the diaries in combination with the information in the Asthma Toolkit has been very helpful for patients.

The final part to this program is a special automated telephone outreach service that calls people with asthma, or their parents. The call checks on asthma symptoms and provides helpful suggestions for patients and parents. It can help direct people to additional free telephone services, including nurses who can answer questions about asthma.

If you have asthma or asthma symptoms, visit your local clinic, ask your doctor about any asthma symptoms and ask for your FREE asthma toolkit. This program has been funded by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.