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Pharmacy Researchers Awarded State Grant for Asthma Education

Dr. Jennifer Padden and Dr. Nicole Marcotullio, assistant professors in the Mylan School of Pharmacy, have been awarded a $60,831 grant from Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement (CURE) program to develop asthma education programming for at-risk children. The two-year grant will support a series of community-based screenings and education camps for elementary and middle school students who suffer from undiagnosed or poorly controlled asthma.

The pharmacy school will take a leadership role in organizing and managing these outreach activities, in collaboration with physicians from the Department of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology at Allegheny General Hospital and members of For Your Good Health, a regional nonprofit focused on health education.

The program, developed in response to a recent asthma study that found 82 percent of inner-city children had undiagnosed or poorly managed asthma, has two tiers.

“The first step is screening to identify as many children as we can who suffer from asthma, obesity or hypertension,” explained Marcotullio. “These conditions are often related because children with asthma frequently are not physically active so they are predisposed to obesity, which goes hand-in-hand with hypertension.”

“We then invite these children to the camps, where we can educate them about asthma symptoms and triggers, and provide activities and strategies that we hope will increase positive health outcomes,” added Padden, who developed an ongoing interest in asthma research following her own volunteer experience at an asthma camp.

The free program will offer community-based screenings of more than 200 students from the Hill District, Hazelwood and possibly other areas, starting on April 12. Students with undiagnosed or poorly controlled asthma have been invited to participate in the upcoming camps, to be held at the A.J. Palumbo Center on three Saturdays, April 24, May 15 and August 7.

“We can have an immediate impact just by identifying these children and educating them and their parents on steps to take to obtain proper treatment,” Padden said. “This program goes hand-in-hand with the pharmacy school’s mission to reach out to the vulnerable populations in our community with programs to improve their health outcomes.”

The camps will be staffed by more than 50 Duquesne pharmacy student volunteers under the direction of pharmacy fellows Katie Garcia and Jonathan Ogurchak. During the morning session, the pharmacy students will repeat the screening tests and present educational materials that focus on asthma, smoking and the importance of healthy eating habits and physical activity. After lunch, Duquesne University athletes and other volunteers will teach campers basketball fundamentals. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to stay and participate in a smoking cessation workshop and an Ask the Physician presentation. Health screenings will also be provided for caregivers.

There is no charge for the screenings or the camps, and free transportation to and from the Palumbo Center is available. Lunch and giveaways will be provided.

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