Health Officials Glad To See Home Visit Program Come To Flathead - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Health Officials Glad To See Home Visit Program Come To Flathead

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KALISPELL - Free care, equipment, and questions answered all dished out at your home, that's what the Flathead City-County Health Department can give kids with asthma now. It's part of the Montana Asthma Home Visiting Project.

A healthy airway has plenty of room in the middle, but during an asthma attack, it clenches down and there's a lot less space. Over time the airway can stay that way because of mucous and chronic inflammation.

"I saw a lot of missed school days due to asthma related illnesses," said Helyna Kretske, a public health nurse who used to work in public schools.

Thanks to a grant from the Montana Asthma Control Program, the health department can help at least 20 kids over the next year in their homes. The kids have to be 17 or younger, live in Flathead county, and have made at least one unplanned trip to the doctor because of asthma in the last year, or score low enough on the asthma control test.

Health officials think this is a good way to make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to dealing with asthma.

"A lot of the problem in a medical office setting is patients don't tend to retain a whole lot of what we tell them," said David Mangold, a physician assistant who specializes in allergies and asthma.

"A lot of people say their child gets the diagnosis, they throw a little bit of information at them. They're overwhelmed. They can't remember everything anyway, and so it helps just to have someone come in," said Kretske.

Being a part of the program means you get six home visits from a registered nurse and free stuff like air filters and special bed sheets that block allergens. It also means you learn the difference between a fast acting inhaler and a controller inhaler, things that could have bad consequences if not done right. Since it's a home appointment, the registered nurse might be able to spot some triggers, like animal hair or smoke, that make it harder for the child to breathe.

"The health department home visit program is a real effective one. It's been shown all across the country to be very effective at reducing asthma hospitalization rates, ER visits, and steroid usage," said Mangold.

Somewhere around 17,000 kids in Montana have asthma, and about one in three of those has no control over it according to the Flathead health department. Mangold says those numbers keep climbing.

You can call the health department at 406.751.8110 to learn more and get signed up for the program.

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