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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Study attempts to reduce selected asthma triggers in border-area homes

New Mexico State University's Nursing Department has teamed up with the Border Environmental Health Coalition for a study to determine if asthma triggers can be decreased in border-area homes.

by a $75,000 grant from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation's Center for Border Health Research, the study will send area promotoras - bilingual community health workers -- on environmental health visits to evaluate potential for reducing selected asthma triggers in homes of children with respiratory symptoms.

"We hope to identify about 100 children between the ages of 5 and 12 years old," said Wendell Oderkirk, a professor of nursing at New Mexico State.

He said school nurses with the Gadsden Independent School District will assist the effort by recommending students who have made at least two visits to the nurses office with respiratory problems.

If the child's family is willing to participate in the study, a promotora will visit the home and look for five identified asthma triggers. The triggers identified for this study are dust mites, pet dander, smoking, carbon monoxide from heating/cooling units and pests such as roaches, mice or rats.

Promotoras are trusted members of the community who will be accepted into the homes easier, said Vicki Simons, a co-founder of the Border Environmental Health Coalition. For this project the promotoras are from La Clinica de Familia. "We also hope that some nursing students can assist with the visits," she said.

The Border Environmental Health Coalition, a non-profit organization formed in 1997 by concerned citizens in Dona Ana County, often partners with institutions of higher education for environmental health projects. The coalition has worked with the Environmental Protection Agency and other groups regarding environmental health concerns related to water, air, home safety and pesticide exposures.

After the visit, the promotoras will make suggestions about possible ways to decrease these triggers in the home. After a period of time they will return to see which of the suggestions the family was able to follow. The results will give researchers some ideas about how to deal with everyday triggers of asthma, Oderkirk said. This study is scheduled to be completed by spring 2003.

"We really need to find out if an average household can lessen these conditions," Simons said. "This study is meant to provoke more questions."