AIR Louisville data identifies strong link between air pollution and asthma attacks

Louisville KY, June 28, 2017- Today marks the close of AIR Louisville, the first-of-its-kind data-driven collaboration among public, private and philanthropic organizations to use digital health technology to improve asthma. The program leveraged Propeller Health’s medication inhaler sensors which tracked when, where and how often residents of Louisville experienced asthma symptoms. These data helped patients to better manage their asthma symptoms, and aided city leaders in making smarter decisions about how to keep the air clean.

One of the main goals of our project was to help individuals get better control of their symptoms.

Over a two-year period, the program enrolled over 1,147 participants, collected over 570 patient years of data, 251,000 medication ‘puffs,’ and over 5.4 million environmental data points. The data were matched with environmental conditions including nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, ozone, sulfur dioxide, pollen levels, temperature, humidity, and wind speed to identify the most significant triggers of asthma and COPD in the Louisville area.

The project’s findings identify potential gaps between federal limits on air pollution and the air quality needed to protect human health. In 2015, the ozone standard was lowered to 70 parts per billion (ppb). Analysis of the AIR Louisville data suggests that a limit of 65 ppb would be appropriate, based on the impact this pollutant has as a trigger for asthma. AIR Louisville has created a unique dataset that includes both medication use and environmental conditions at the time of use. Analysis of these data shows that asthma attacks and healthcare costs both increase when pollution levels reach even moderately unhealthy levels.

One of the policy recommendations that came from our 1.2 million data points is to plant more trees in Louisville.

“The health of our residents is critical to the overall health of our community, and Louisville’s location within the Ohio River Valley provides particular challenges for residents with asthma,” Mayor Greg Fischer said. “Data and research show that asthma can become more severe on days of extreme heat and poor air quality. As the city and our many partners, including AIR Louisville, work to plant trees, improve air quality and #cool502, I look forward to seeing asthma sufferers enjoy cleaner air and easier breathing.”

The program was a collaboration between Propeller Health, Louisville Metro’s Office of Civic Innovation and the Institute for Healthy Air Water and Soil. This unique combination helped the project reach enrollment goals and form new partnerships, said Veronica Combs, executive director of the Institute for Healthy Air Water and Soil.
“AIR Louisville is a perfect example of how communities have to work together to change our definition of healthcare,” said Combs. “We need an urban environment that supports our health just as much as we need access to medical care.”

Participants saw a 82% reduction in asthma rescue inhaler use, a significant increase in the number of symptom-free days, and 14% increase in nights without symptoms.

“Propeller’s mission is to better understand patterns of respiratory disease through individual and community data,” said David Van Sickle, CEO Propeller Health. “The collaboration with AIR Louisville has been a profound opportunity to put the data that we’re collecting to work to help improve people’s lives with asthma and COPD, improve public health for the community of Louisville and to move the conversation towards prevention of respiratory disease. We’re excited to expand this work in other cities globally.”

Three air pollutant and high temperatures are the most likely to trigger an asthma attack in Jefferson County.

The AIR Louisville team created a report card that highlights the project’s accomplishments, policy recommendations and next steps.

Participating in AIR Louisville were the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, Air Pollution Control District, local employer partners such as Brown-Forman, Humana, Papa Johns, WHAS-11, Seven Counties Services, Kindred Healthcare, JenCare Neighborhood Medical Centers, local health plans such as Passport Health Plan, and local asthma specialty clinics like Family Allergy & Asthma and the University of Louisville.

AIR Louisville funded by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and additional financial support from the Midland States chapter of the American Lung Association.

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