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Bruzzese Awarded $3.1 million to Test Web-Based Asthma Intervention for Teens

Professor Jean-Marie Bruzzese, PhD, has received an R33 grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health for a four-year study of her web-based asthma intervention for adolescents. 

The $3.1 million grant will support a randomized controlled trial of Controlling Asthma Program for Adolescents (CAMP Air) in 370 urban adolescents with uncontrolled asthma. 

“Asthma has a high prevalence and morbidity among adolescents,” said Bruzzese, a professor of applied developmental psychology in nursing, who has been working on evidence-based interventions to address asthma disparities in Black and Hispanic teens for more than two decades. “And we know that asthma impacts more than just health.”   

Teenagers with asthma miss more school and are less likely to graduate high school, for example, Bruzzese explained, while their parents miss more days of work to care for them compared to their peers without asthma, resulting in an economic burden. 

Leveraging technology to promote equity

“What’s unique about CAMP Air is that we’re leveraging technology to eliminate health disparities by promoting asthma self-care, which will improve their asthma control,” Bruzzese said. For adolescents, she noted, online programs have been shown to be more effective than traditional educational methods, like in-person learning. Data also shows more than 95% of teens, regardless of race or ethnicity, own smartphones, she added. “There’s lots of barriers to accessing in-person behavioral interventions, and we eliminate that.” 

Bruzzese adapted CAMP Air from her Asthma Self-management for Adolescents (ASMA) program, which was shown in clinical trials to be highly effective in reducing symptoms, night waking, and activity limitations, as well as emergency department visits and hospitalizations for asthma.  

A similar program for elementary-age students developed by Bruzzese’s mentors at Columbia University is now in widespread use at schools across New York City, delivered by nurses and health aides. But because these staffing resources aren’t available at schools for older students, the Office of School Health of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene suggested Bruzzese adapt ASMA into a web-based program to make it sustainable. 

Empowering teens with asthma

With NIH funding, Bruzzese worked with 3C Institute in North Carolina, a leader in web-based behavioral health interventions, to develop the seven-module program. Grounded in social cognitive theory and motivational interviewing, CAMP Air aims to empower adolescents with asthma by building their self-management skills. Each module introduces specific topics and strategies followed by a set of interactive exercises and games for practice and personalized feedback. 

Bruzzese and her team have begun enrolling students for a one-year trial comparing CAMP Air to an informational intervention. They will also assess the program’s cost-effectiveness and evaluate factors associated with successful implementation. 

“Often people shy away from working with adolescents because they are seen as being difficult,” Bruzzese noted. “However, adolescence is a time of great social and cognitive changes that make adolescents ready to effectively manage their asthma on their own. Also, it is a key time to develop good self-care behaviors that often last into adulthood. Teaching them asthma self-management skills now offers not only the opportunity to help them improve their asthma control now, but also to develop skills that can last a lifetime.”