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San Diego Children with Asthma Can Breathe Better Thanks to a Pilot Program at Rady Children's, Funded by Health Net's $125,000 Grant

Date: 03/16/22

Pilot Program Drives Health Equity by Identifying Children Facing Multiple Barriers to Care

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (March 16, 2022)Health Net, which has pioneered innovative approaches to health equity for more than a decade, awarded Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego (Rady Children's) a $125,000 grant to fund individualized care to help children with asthma. The grant establishes a new program that identifies and tackles social and environmental factors such as food insecurity and smoking exposure that contribute to childhood asthma.

As part of this new program, Rady Children's developed a process that combines the use of technology with the analysis of medical records. The analysis can paint a clearer picture of the additional support that patients may need. In turn, a patient care coordinator can successfully complete a screening for social and environmental determinants of health like lack of transportation and homelessness, for children seen for an asthma exacerbation in the emergency department. The screening is essential to understanding what additional resources are needed.

"Health Net invests in innovative community and technology resources that meet people where they are," said Martha Santana-Chin, Medi-Cal President of Health Net. "This pilot program took a pioneering approach to managing patients with asthma. And while there is no single, specific solution to addressing care gaps, this program is a step in the right direction. Together with organizations like Rady Children's we can create partnerships to better support the asthma population and expand to others."

This new model of care provides key insights into patients seen at Rady Children's and will continue to guide initiatives for the asthma population for years to come. This is important because left untreated, asthma could lead to unnecessary emergency department visits and hospitalizations. Nationally, asthma accounts for about 1.6 million emergency department visits each year, as well as more than 439,000 hospitalizations, 13.8 million missed school days and 14.2 million missed days at work. In 2007, 16.8% of San Diego County residents diagnosed with asthma reported symptoms every week and 5.8% reported symptoms daily.

"This grant helped set a stronger foundation for our population health team to better identify health inequities, the appropriate interventions and community partners," said Dr. Keri Carstairs, chief population health officer, Rady Children's. "Our goal is to scale this equity index to additional conditions and help other families in our community."

In San Diego, many of the children that visited the emergency department live in neighborhoods commonly associated with disparities and inequities related to poverty, air quality and other socioeconomic challenges. As part of the pilot, all the families screened for social determinants of health who had identified a need were connected to a community resource.

In total, the pilot program supported over 1,300 families in 2021. Pilot participants received asthma education, primary care connection, and costly home remediation supplies, like air purifiers and dust mite encasings, to improve asthma management. They were screened for social determinants of health and offered connections to resources when needed.

"Underserved populations continue to bear disproportionate hardship in managing asthma due to structural, social, and behavioral determinates in addition to environmental racism." said San Diego County Supervisor Nora Vargas, who serves on the California Air Resources Board. "I'm thrilled for partners in San Diego like Health Net and Rady Children's that take a holistic approach and target complex factors to close care gaps for our most vulnerable communities."

This new model of care involving a patient care coordinator is designed to expand to other medical conditions where a similar screening can take place. Additionally, the geo-mapping functionality can identify cluster regions in cities where interventions may be developed with local schools or community-based organizations.

With decades of experience providing care for the state, Health Net continues to lead the charge to improve health equity with multi-faceted, collaborative and culturally relevant programs and interventions at the statewide and local level. To learn more about Health Net's industry-leading efforts to drive health equity, visit and follow Health Net on Facebook and Twitter.

Last Updated: 03/16/2022