New Study Funded by National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities to Improve the Health and Well-Being of Latinx Children with Asthma

Nov. 17, 2020
Photo of Erin Rodriguez

Uncontrolled asthma in school-aged children is a significant health problem. It can lead to missed school days, emergency department visits, and hospitalizations. Many of these children and their parents also experience increased levels of stress due to the disease that contribute to mood and behavioral difficulties. These mood and behavioral difficulties may not only interfere with asthma management, but also exacerbate symptoms of the disease.

Latinx children from low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds are disproportionately affected by uncontrolled asthma. Structural factors affecting low-SES Latinx families, including barriers to healthcare access and immigration- and discrimination-related stressors, place additional burdens on families. Furthermore, an increasing number of Latinx children live in poverty, which increases the risk for asthma-related school absences and functional limitations.

The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities has granted $3,258,426 to support the study, “A Coping Skills Intervention for Low-SES Latino Families of Children with Asthma.” The research is led by Erin M. Rodríguez, associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology in the College of Education at The University of Texas at Austin.

Rodríguez is the principal investigator for the study, which will test the effect of a culturally responsive, family-based coping skills and asthma self-management intervention for Latinx children with asthma and their families. The intervention program, called Adapt 2 Asthma, incorporates elements of existing evidence-based psychological interventions and is designed to build upon Latinx families’ cultural strengths in asthma management.

“I’m excited to extend my previous research that suggested that stress, coping, and cultural strengths play an important role in asthma control and management, and to test one of the first pediatric asthma interventions for Latinx families that incorporates psychosocial and cultural elements,” Rodriguez says. “Our findings will help to identify effective treatments and also understand why they work, which will guide cost-effective clinical decision-making.”

Rodríguez is partnering with primary care clinics in Austin and surrounding communities to deliver the intervention, and is collaborating with UT’s School of Nursing and Dell Medical School, and the college’s Department of Educational Psychology.

The research will have an important impact on the community. “We’re hopeful that what we learn from the project will inform culturally relevant approaches to family asthma management, which will contribute to the elimination of asthma disparities affecting Latinx children,” Rodriguez says.

“This study has the potential to make a significant contribution to improving the health of one of the fastest growing populations of children in the U.S. I’m looking forward to following Dr. Rodriguez and her team as they conduct this research, and hearing about the findings. And, I’m proud this work is being conducted in the college,” says Alexandra Loukas, associate dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Education.