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Research Shows High Asthma Rates in Lowell


Lowell - Research conducted over the last three years by the University of Massachusetts Lowell College of Health Professions has shown a high incidence of asthma in two local student populations.

During the 1999-2000 school year, 35 percent of Lowell Head Start students surveyed had asthma (112 out of 316 students). In the next school year, the incidence rate was 22 percent (54 out of 245 students). The incidence rate reported in Head Start studies with similar populations in Wisconsin and Virginia studies was measured at 14 and 19 percent, making the Lowell rate, at least, 20 to 50 percent higher.

Research conducted with the student population at UMass Lowell revealed a 15 percent asthma rate, about 35 percent higher than the 11 percent rate for the national college population overall. Approximately 300 students were surveyed.

Results of the research will be available at UMass Lowell's World Asthma Day Exhibit on Tuesday, May 7, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., at the Wannalancit Building, 600 Suffolk St., Lowell.

University asthma research has been funded at $140,000 for three years by the Massachusetts Dept. of Public Health (DPH).  Sen. Steven C. Panagiotakos, who sponsored this funding, said "There's no doubt that asthma is a real problem in Lowell. I am pleased that the research includes strategies for helping kids control their condition."  

Current activities have focused on piloting or implementing educational and intervention programs. This school year, researchers working with the preschoolers have initiated home-based educational programs, while the UMass Lowell population has piloted a web-based tool that could assist asthmatics in managing their condition.

Reasons for the increased asthma rates in these two student populations are unclear without additional research, said Dr. Robert Nicolosi, principal investigator for the three-year study and professor of Health and Clinical Lab Sciences. "It's important that we accurately identify risk factors for asthma and work with both of these populations on meaningful interventions."

The first two years of the study were devoted to collecting data on the incidence, risk factors and health care utilization. The preschool study was directed by Pauline Ladebauche, R.N.M.S., director of UMass Lowell's Nursing Laboratories, and the campus survey is under the direction of Dr. Beverly Volicer, chair of the Dept. of Health and Clinical Sciences at UMass Lowell.

This school year, 62 preschool children and their parents have been involved in an asthma education program, Breathe Easier Asthma Training (BEAT), specifically tailored to the needs of the families served by Head Start.  With the support of Greater Lowell Head Start, the initial home-based program has been expanded to include educational outreach to teachers, paraprofessionals, family service providers and community workers.

College-age students with asthma, who regularly track Peak Flow Measurement (their expiration rate), tested paper and electronic versions of a measurement tool. University researchers have also implemented the American College Health Association's National College Health Assessment (NCHA), which provides comparative data on asthma and other health issues for both local and national populations.

Note:   World Asthma Day at UMass Lowell

9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 7

Wannalancit Building, 600 Suffolk St., Lowell

Attendees include:             Senator Steven C. Panagiotakos

Representatives of Greater Lowell Head Start

Robert Knorr, Deputy Director for Environmental Epidemiology

Massachusetts Department of Public Health

Asthma researchers from UMass Lowell

For more information, contact or 978-934-3224