Dealing with cold winters was not Chimera Campbell's biggest challenge after moving from Florida to Chicago in 2012.
The 39-year-old couldn't manage her asthma, and that led to frequent emergency visits to Mount Sinai Hospital, a part of Sinai Health System. “I was in the ER constantly with chest tightness, pain and having problems breathing,” Campbell said, estimating she visited the ER six times a year.
Then, Campbell received a phone call from a staffer for the safety-net system asking whether a community health worker could visit her home and identify and get rid of any environmental factors that could be aggravating her asthma.
Campbell agreed and the worker, Kim Artis, discovered that household dust and secondhand smoke were the culprits. “Patients don't come into the clinic saying their house is dusty or their husband is a smoker,” Artis said. “So that is the missing link we provide once we go to the home.”
Since working with Artis for the past two years, Campbell has not visited the ED for her asthma. Artis “helps me with my health, my mind, the body and my spirit,” Campbell said.
Systems adopting such unconventional approaches to managing chronic disease are becoming less unusual as the concept of addressing social determinants of health sweeps the industry. Income, education, employment, food security, housing stability and violence are all targeted factors to help improve patient health.