PHILADELPHIA Breathes Easier With New Asthma Grant; Philadelphia Allies Against Asthma Receives $2 Million Grant from Merck Company Foundation


PHILADELPHIA, Nov. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- The health campaign against asthma
in Philadelphia will receive a major boost that will bring asthma screening to
public schools and door-to-door visits in neighborhoods throughout the city.

The Philadelphia Allies Against Asthma Coalition (PAAA) was awarded a four-year, $2 million grant to combat pediatric asthma by the Merck Company
Foundation's new Merck Childhood Asthma Network (MCAN) initiative. The grant, announced in Washington, D.C. today, will support services provided by the coalition's lead partners, the Health Promotion Council of Southeastern
Pennsylvania (HPC), the Community Asthma Prevention Program (CAPP) at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and Thomas Jefferson University.
Philadelphia is one of five cities nationwide to receive this grant.

"Since its inception in 2000, the Philadelphia Allies Against Asthma
coalition has addressed gaps in care for children with asthma, including
coordination of services, family asthma education, home environment issues and
community-based education," says Vanessa Briggs, executive director of the HPC and project director for the MCAN initiative. "This new grant enables PAAA to
expand these services beyond West and North Philadelphia so that children and
families with asthma in South, Northwest and Lower Northeast Philadelphia can
also benefit."

It is estimated that 30 percent of children 5-13 years old in Philadelphia have asthma, yet there is no concrete way to measure prevalence. For the first time in Philadelphia, children will be screened for asthma at targeted schools, and door-to-door asthma screenings will be performed in high-risk neighborhoods in order to have a better grasp of the true prevalence of asthma in Philadelphia, and to connect these families with integrated services.

"Many children are diagnosed only after experiencing an asthma attack. If we can diagnose these hidden cases earlier, we can provide preventive services and avoid that trip to the emergency room," says Tyra Bryant-Stephens, M.D., director of the Community Asthma Prevention Program at Children's Hospital.

"We are delighted that Merck Foundation recognizes and believes in the work of the Philadelphia Allies Against Asthma coalition. This collaborative effort combines the strengths found in CAPP's experience in implementing community-based asthma interventions with PAAA's experience in providing integrated education and service support through its Child Asthma Link Line," adds Dr. Bryant-Stephens.

PAAA aims to reduce the daily burden of pediatric asthma in Philadelphia by using a community-based approach to implement scientifically proven interventions. Long-term goals as part of this new grant include:

-- Improving access and quality of pediatric asthma health care services
-- Educating children and families about asthma and proper care
-- Making communities and schools more asthma-friendly
-- Promoting asthma-safe home environments

"The MCAN grant provides a great opportunity to expand and integrate the
services we can provide to Philadelphia's children with asthma," says Michael
Rosenthal, M.D., of Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University.
"By using our Child Asthma Link Line and working collaboratively with our coalition partners, we will be able to identify more children with asthma, link them with providers for care, and provide home and community-based education to help them better control their disease."

The PAAA coalition involves more than 110 individuals who represent more than 40 stakeholder organizations. The lead organization for the MCAN initiative is the Health Promotion Council of Southeastern Pennsylvania, which provides the administrative infrastructure for the coalition.

Key partners for this initiative also include the School District of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, the National Nursing Centers Consortium, Healthier Babies/Healthier Futures, Inc., and the Philadelphia Health Management Corporation. PAAA will receive additional
support for conducting Philadelphia MCAN from the Philadelphia Foundation, the
Pennsylvania Department of Health, and the Philadelphia Health Management

The Co-Principal Investigators for the MCAN initiative are Tyra Bryant-Stephens, M.D., Director of the Community Asthma Prevention Program at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Michael P. Rosenthal, M.D., co-chair of Philadelphia Allies Against Asthma and Vice-Chair of Academic Programs in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University. Ms. Vanessa Briggs, Executive Director of the Health Promotion Council of Southeastern Pennsylvania, will serve as Project Director.

Philadelphia Allies Against Asthma is a citywide effort by 110 individuals from more than 40 organizations whose goal is to reduce asthma morbidity and mortality among children in Philadelphia. PAAA is composed of stakeholders from health care systems, providers, schools, insurers, community-based agencies, nursing centers, state and local heath departments and parents/caregivers. Members participate and/or volunteer to undertake special assignments to support the efforts of PAAA's committees. PAAA is determined to find ways to help children with asthma stay healthy.

Media Contacts:
Diane Renzulli, Health Promotion Council of Southeastern Pa, 215-985-2537,

Rachel Salis-Silverman, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia,

Nan Myers, Thomas Jefferson University, 215-955-6300,