Helping Patients Breathe Easier

June 26, 2019

“When you visit someone’s home, you never know what you’re going to find,” says Carla Caraballo, one of Lowell CHC’s Lead Community Health Workers (CHWs). “Maybe they need food, or help taking their medicine. Maybe they just need someone to listen.”

At Lowell Community Health Center, one of the biggest obstacles our patients face is just getting here. Between lack of transportation, cultural barriers, work schedules, and other constraints, just making it to the exam room can be a challenge.

Plus, there’s a lot you can’t see in a 20-minute appointment. That’s because so much of what contributes to health happens outside of the exam room. 

Enter Lowell CHC’s Community Health Workers, like Carla. 

“When I visit someone’s home, I can see what’s really going on. I know the questions to ask. What medicines are you taking? What kinds of foods are you eating? Do you have warm clothing for your children? And I can do something about it immediately.”

This support is crucial for so many patients. For people with asthma, it can be life-saving. That’s because reducing asthma triggers in the home and providing a consistent treatment plan play such a huge role in keeping patients out of the hospital.

For the past decade, Lowell CHC has partnered with HUD, UMass Lowell, and the MA Department of Public Health to treat more than 500 asthmatic patients of all ages through a series of research studies that center around home visits. Participants receive ongoing support and education, along with supplies like less toxic cleaning products and HEPA vacuum cleaners.

The participants are clearly breathing easier. During the most recent phase, hospital visits were down 70% and the number of patients describing their asthma as “well-controlled” doubled. 

The results are impressive, but there is still so much need. Your support for the WrapAround Fund helps our CHWs continue to make a difference even as each study comes to an end.

“We never close our eyes to other issues,” Carla says. 

She recalls one patient whose infant was suffering from horrible upper respiratory infections. The child’s doctor asked Carla to check out the home. After discovering significant mold in the attic, she helped the patient work with her her landlord, and the situation was resolved — all but eliminating her child’s symptoms.

Sometimes the needs are simpler. “I look in the fridge and notice there is nothing to eat,” she says. “So, I find a way to get groceries. You can imagine their relief. We really build bonds. It’s that trust that makes all the difference in their care.”

Like so many of our services, much of the work being done by Community Health Workers is not covered by insurance. 

Thanks to you, and everyone who supports our WrapAround Fund, our CHWs can continue to remove barriers and make sure everyone in our community has access to the care and resources they need. Thank you for helping to build a healthier community!