Inspiration from the field: Managing Asthma and Promoting Healthy Weight

Authored by Rhonda Vosmus


I work at the AH! Asthma Health Program at Maine Medical Center as an asthma educator. My role is not only to talk with children and their families about asthma and how to treat it, but also to analyze the patient population to identify risk factors for asthma and asthma exacerbations. In May 2012 the Centers for Disease Control released data that showed that between 2001 and 2010 the prevalence of asthma had increased in the United States. Because asthma is still an expanding problem we have been focusing on risk factors for the disease. What we’ve noticed through several years of tracking BMIs, is that more than 50% of our patients are overweight or obese. So, about 12 months ago we started including Let’s Go!’s 5210 messages into our conversations with kids who have asthma and are at risk of being overweight or obese. This gave us an opportunity to talk about healthy behaviors that would help them manage their asthma better and help them lead healthier, more active lives. A few weeks ago, we decided to also focus on prevention and started sharing healthy messages and the 5210 messages with all of our asthma patients.

I ask the kids if they know what 5210 stands for. There is a mixed response, some are quick to recite each number and what it stands for, others need some prodding and a few have no idea what I am talking about. After a review of the 5210 messages I then ask the child which of the four messages they feel they would like to focus on or feel they could improve on. Once they choose, I brainstorm with them how to best achieve their goal. When I have a child that cannot seem to articulate an answer I help by telling them which one I feel I need to focus on and why.

In bringing the 5210 message to my patients I’ve noticed parents are engaging in the conversation. Some parents have never heard of the messages but as I am speaking to the child, the parent often chimes in with their opinion of which of the 4 messages they think the child should concentrate on. This helps the family make an improvement plan together.

I would love to hear from many of you as to how your conversations go with students, patients and families.

To find out more about MaineHealth’s Ah! Asthma Health Program, visit their website.

Rhonda Vosmus has worked as a Registered Respiratory Therapist-Neonatal Pediatric Specialist and Certified Asthma Educator at Maine Medical Center for 32 years.