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Carolina Access Helping People To 'Breathe' Easier

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DURHAM, N.C. — A program is helping asthma patients breathe a little easier with the help of health professionals.

From the second her oldest sons step off the school bus, Lawanda Samuel has her hands full. She is raising three boys and everyone in the family, including herself, has asthma. Samuel had trouble keeping track of all the doctors' appointments and medications, but then she heard about Carolina Access.

"Patients often don't understand the best ways to take care of themselves and they're not always proactive in terms of their own health," said Susan D. Epstein, of the Division of Community Health.

Carolina Access is a team effort between Duke University, the Durham health department and other agencies. Health educators and social workers visit families and teach them how to manage their asthma and prevent attacks.

Social worker Gayle Silver got the Samuels an air conditioner. She also provides transportation.

"I just try to make sure they get to all their appointments," she said.

"I really, really appreciate it because without her, I really don't know what I'd do half the time," Samuel said.

Hospitals credit the program for helping cut admissions and emergency room visits for asthma by 50 percent in just two years.

"Generally, we've been really pleased. Patients are glad with the help and support," Epstein said.

Samuel said she is glad that her family's asthma is under control.

"With all their help, it's really well-managed," she said.