urban-league-and-bcbs_web.jpgMIAMI — Liberty City residents can now breathe a sigh of relief, in spite of the fact that asthma is now the leading serious chronic illness among children in the United States.

On Monday, July 28, The Blue Foundation for a Healthy Florida granted $85,200 to the Urban League of Greater Miami, Inc. to expand and sustain its newly developed Asthma Intervention & Relief (AIR) Program.

The AIR program is an asthma detection, education and treatment initiative whose primary goal is to help children and families of the Liberty City community monitor, control and manage asthma conditions effectively. It allows the families enrolled in the program to receive free asthma management supplies such as peak flow meters, spacers and dust mite covers. These measures, in addition to free screenings, referrals and case management, help control children’s asthma.

So far, the program has conducted 256 home screenings and completed 37 home visits within the community that it serves.

The grant is aimed at reducing hospitalizations among children due to asthma-related symptoms. It is one of 14 grants that the philanthropic affiliate of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida (BCBSF) will make to organizations across the state by the end of this summer. The organizations are in need of funding for programs that seek to increase access to healthcare for the uninsured and underserved.

This year, the Urban League’s proposal was one of 78 proposed health programs throughout the state. It was selected after an extensive process of evaluating costs and on-site visits.

Michael Hutton, senior policy analyst and public policy grants manager of The Blue Foundation, said, “We saw this as a critical need here to address asthma as it is the No. 1 chronic disease for children, especially among low-income populations. In these areas, it is four times higher than it is in the general population, so we decided to support the Urban League’s AIR program for two years.”

The Urban League of Greater Miami, Inc. Asthma Intervention & Relief program is also sponsored by the Health Foundation of South Florida. The services for the program are provided by the Economic Opportunity Family Health Center in Liberty City.

Sharon Henley, education director and program manager for the Urban League of Greater Miami, said, “This grant [from The Blue Foundation] is really a continuation of the services we already offer because the grant that we received prior to this one from the Health Foundation of South Florida only provided funding to sustain us for a year and a half. That’s why we did reach out to The Blue Foundation to continue the program.”

The Urban League received $124,759 from the Health Foundation of South Florida.

The Urban League hopes to reduce the negative social effects of asthma, such as the number of missed school/work days, emergency room visits and hospitalizations due to asthma through the program. According to the U.S. Department of Education, asthma accounts for 14 million lost school days in a year, and 2 million emergency room visits, along with 500,000 hospitalizations.

Hutton added: “Asthma is a disease that children can learn to control. Oftentimes children who don’t have asthma under control end up going to the hospital more frequently because they may be having trouble breathing and their parents don’t know what to do. This prevention program will help those young people to learn how to control it so they don’t end up going to the emergency room or the hospital.”


Photo by Khary Bruyning. Officials from the Urban League of Greater Miami accept a check for $85,200 from The Blue Foundation for Healthy Florida. Pictured above, from left to right, are: Walter Harvey, Esq., an Urban League board member; his son, Ian, 2; Michael Hutton, director of grants administration for The Blue Foundation; Mark Bobb, an Urban League board member; and Sharron Henley, education director and program manager for the Urban League.