An $8 million grant to Rhode Island Hospital will allow two Warren Alpert Medical School and Hassenfeld Child Health Innovation Institute pediatric psychologists to develop a community-based program to address disparities in asthma outcomes in children.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — To improve asthma care across Rhode Island and beyond, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has awarded $8 million for a new center led by two Rhode Island Hospital-based professors at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School and Hassenfeld Child Health Innovation Institute.

The center the grant creates will be one of only four in the country, according to Lifespan, which operates the hospital and announced the award on Wednesday, Nov. 15. Work in the center will expand upon earlier pilot research to help determine best practices for improving asthma outcomes among high-risk children with asthma and ensure long-term program sustainability.

“Nationally, we are in need of coordinated systems of asthma care, and this initiative represents a first step in building a sustainable delivery model for evidence-based pediatric asthma interventions,” said Elizabeth McQuaid, a professor of psychiatry, human behavior and pediatrics (research) at the Alpert Medical School and a staff psychologist at Rhode Island Hospital (RIH) and Hasbro Children’s Hospital.

Together with co-principal investigator Daphne Koinis-Mitchell, an associate professor of psychiatry and human behavior and pediatrics (research) and staff psychologist at RIH and Hasbro, McQuaid will examine 16 targeted communities. They will evaluate the effectiveness of an integrated system called the Rhode Island Integrated Response Program (RI-AIR) — created to identify children with asthma living in the most afflicted and high-risk areas — conduct screenings and refer to interventions.

The assessment will center around approximately 1,500 ethnically diverse children with asthma who live in urban areas, and their family members, over a period of six years. It will include a review of program effectiveness among communities and school districts, families’ acceptance of the program and long-term program sustainability.

“This project builds on our research and intervention efforts with urban families, allowing us to make comprehensive asthma care services more tailored to children’s specific needs and more accessible to at-risk families in a way that’s less burdensome to them,” Koinis-Mitchell said.

McQuaid and Koinis-Mitchellalso researchers at the Hassenfeld Child Health Innovation Institute (HCHII), used funding provided by HCHII in February 2016 to develop an asthma innovation program, which supported the development of RI-AIR. Funding from HCHII allowed for the establishment of the Asthma Community Collaborative, a coalition of community stakeholders that informed a needs assessment to identify gaps in pediatric asthma care in the state.

“The innovative integration of technology and thoughtfully reimagined clinical care apparent in RI-AIR is exactly the kind of groundbreaking research on behalf of children’s health that we imagined when the Hassenfeld Institute was created,” said Dr. Phyllis Dennery, Hasbro Children’s Hospital pediatrician-in-chief, chair of the department of pediatrics at the Alpert Medical School and a Hassenfeld Institute executive committee member.

“With the new grant, Drs. McQuaid and Koinis-Mitchell will be able to improve asthma care for even more children. In addition, with increased availability of pulmonary and allergy/immunology services at Hasbro Children’s, we will make great strides in the care of children in Rhode Island suffering from this devastating condition.”

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute is part of the National Institutes of Health.