HOPE’s Asthma Programs in China Helping Children Breathe Easier
Xiao Yu, a six-year old in Shanghai, grew up thinking he was different from his classmates because he wasn’t allowed to play sports with his friends.
When he was three, he was diagnosed with asthma, but his issues gradually worsened to the point where he couldn’t play sports out of fears it would trigger an asthma attack. Xiao Yu’s parents, like many in China, struggled to get him the care he needed because the prevalence of ashtma in China is rising quickly. Over ten million children in the country have asthma.
Worse yet, doctors are not entering the respiratory pediatric field quickly enough to address growing needs. In the Pudong district of Shanghai, where Xiao Yu lives, there are only seven respiratory pediatricians to care for 600,000 children who suffer from asthma. Patients and their families often have to spend an entire day waiting for a five minute visit with a doctor to get an examination and prescription for asthma medication. The excessive waits make long-term follow-ups extremely difficult, and in turn worsens many patients’ conditions.
To help solve this issue, Project HOPE worked with the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center to train health professionals and donate equipment to establish asthma clinics in each of the district’s 14 community health centers. The clinics significantly reduce the wait time for children to get the follow-up care they need to manage their symptoms.
The first time Xiao Yu’s parents took their child to one of these new clinics, they were shocked that there were no long lines, and that they could schedule follow-up appointments with no need for extensive waits. The success of the new program was recently highlighted during a National Congress meeting in China as an example to show that a tiered care system can benefit patients in a more effective way. Dr. Jiang Fan, one of the pediatricians who took the asthma training, said at the congress “In the past, no pediatrician was willing to see patients in the communities, but now, our pediatricians from the respiratory department go to community health centers every week.”
During a recent visit, which happened to fall on World Asthma Day, Xiao Yu’s doctor passed along even better news. He said, “Congratulations, Xiao Yu, you are the first child to successfully graduate from our program!” He had successfully finished all six of his follow-ups. His symptoms are now so well controlled that he no longer needs his medications.
Xiao Yu is the first of many children HOPE’s programs in China aim to reach through this new initiative. Over 800 children have been enrolled in follow-up care at community health centers, and the numbers continue to grow as more families learn about the new services being offered throughout the district.
“I can’t be more grateful,” his father said after completing the program. “Thank you all for taking care of my child. I had never thought that my son’s condition could be so well controlled. He’s had no asthma attack since his first visit to the CHC. That was unbelievable! Dr. Chen said Xiao Yu can enjoy any sports he likes now. I feel finally released after these years of suffering. I hope more and more children will graduate from their asthma treatment. Thank you! Thank you!”