Kellen Edwin Bolden was only 10 years old – a bright, energetic young boy living in Jonesboro, Georgia – when a sudden, severe asthma attack took his life. His life proved to be an inspiration in more ways than one. Georgia passed a law in Kellen’s name making it easier for students to use their asthma inhalers at school.
For Atlanta pediatric pulmonologist LeRoy Graham, MD, Kellen’s tragic passing – and the persistent asthma disparities he saw in communities of color and across the country – inspired him to examine more closely the health barriers that exist in urban environments.
African Americans face significantly higher rates of emergency department visits and deaths due to asthma. Among the factors for these disparities:
- air pollution in urban areas
- access to care
- language barriers
- cultural differences.
Historically, African Americans distrust the medical community and public health guidance and they are often hesitant to engage in clinical research.
How to break through those barriers and educate more African Americans about asthma?
In 2003, Dr. Graham saw an opportunity to reach African Americans by going where they gather regularly – churches and other faith-based settings. He started a nonprofit called Not One More Life that sends doctors, nurses, asthma educators and respiratory therapists to Black churches and schools for free asthma screenings and education. People in need of follow-up care are referred to a doctor or specialist and followed by a case manager.
Many participants do not realize there is a problem with their lungs because they do not see a doctor very often and they do not know or understand the symptoms of asthma.
By partnering with churches in predominantly African-American neighborhoods – and bringing quality healthcare closer to where people live – Not One More Life is helping build a foundation of trust. Research shows 90% of participants at Not One More Life’s asthma screening events report seeing a doctor afterward.
Not One More Life is making a difference by giving minorities in underserved communities the knowledge they need – from trusted, credible sources – to make informed decisions about their health.
Not One More Life merged with Allergy & Asthma Network in 2019. It continues its work as a program of the Network, bringing care to where it is needed most.
Allergy & Asthma Network is committed to reducing health inequity. In 2021, the Network hosted more than 3,000 people for:
- free lung screenings
- COVID-19 testing and vaccinations
- telehealth asthma coaching
People also received free asthma, COPD and COVID-19 educational resources in English or Spanish.
Screenings were held at cities across the country, including:
- Atlanta, GA
- Washington, DC
- Nashville, TN
- Jackson, MS
- Birmingham, AL
- Chicago, IL
The Not One More Life Trusted Messengers Program is expanding to additional U.S. cities in 2021, with events in Baltimore and New Orleans. The program is a public-private partnership supported by Sanofi-Genzyme and numerous other partners at the local, regional and national levels.