The occasional home visit from a health worker can be strong medicine for people who suffer from asthma. A new study based in King County shows it can have as much benefit, and cost even less, than prescription drugs.
The study looked at 366 people with uncontrolled asthma, whose symptoms were taking a toll on their productivity and quality of life. Researchers gave them the usual treatment plan, while about half also got home visits every few months from a community health worker.
The health workers educated and coached the patients, and helped them deal with asthma triggers in their homes such as mold, cockroaches or cigarette smoke.
James Krieger of Public Health - Seattle & King County said after a year, the home-visit group had an extra symptom-free day a week.
“[That] translates into 50 more days a year free of asthma symptoms. And that’s a huge improvement in quality of life for people,” he said.
Krieger said it helps that the health workers are lay people, not professionals with a lot of fancy degrees.
“I'm not sure the intervention would have worked as well if you had people with a lot of letters after their names go into the homes, Krieger said. “I think community health workers are peers, and they’re really good at developing a trusting relationship with folks.”
Using community health workers also keeps costs down. The intervention cost about $1,300 a year – less than a year’s worth of inhalers.
Past studies have shown home visits are effective for children with asthma, but Krieger said this is the first to show they also help adults.
The results are published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.