Thursday, July 24, 2014
Study aims to reduce risk of asthma symptoms among children in tribal communities
The University of Tulsa has received more than $900,000 in federal funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to conduct the air quality research project “From Home to School: Tribal Indoor Air Quality Intervention Study.”
The Sustainable and Healthy Tribes grant will be managed by principal investigator Richard Shaughnessy, founder and director of research for TU’s Indoor Air Program, and co-principal investigator Sohail Khan, director of Cherokee Nation Health Research. The EPA grant provides funding for three years of air quality research within the Cherokee Nation of northeast Oklahoma, the Nez Perce Tribe Reservation and surrounding area of west central Idaho, and the Navajo Nation in the Shiprock, New Mexico region. The project also involves collaboration with asthma expert Janelle Whitt, medical director of the OU Tulsa Community Health program, and the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals at Northern Arizona University.
The research aims to find effective ways to minimize asthma trigger exposure and cross contamination in home and school environments. Data collected from the three regions and climates will target ventilation, cleaning methods and air-cleaning interventions that can reduce asthma triggers. Pre-test and post-test observations will help determine the impact of asthma trigger reduction attempts on likely symptom days.
“We’re trying to develop a deeper understanding of the interactions in and between school and home environments pertaining to the health of children,” Shaughnessy said. “Attention to both settings will help us draft a more complete profile of the air quality tribal children are exposed to throughout the day.”
Asthma is a leading cause of school absences due to illness, and children with asthma miss six to eight days of class each year. Symptoms in young children often are heightened by environmental triggers such as pet and dust mite allergens. By reducing the likelihood of these factors, the TU Indoor Air Program expects a 45 percent decrease in the number of days tribal school children with asthma are absent from school. The project could have a significant impact on reducing asthma symptoms and improving school attendance.