By Henry Ehrlich
An article in the Louisville Courier-Journal by reporter James Bruggers caught my eye for several reasons. It read in part:
“Louisville is going high-tech to try to figure out what’s behind the city’s problem with asthma. As many as 500 Louisville residents will be equipped with ‘smart’ emergency inhalers that will track the time and location of their asthma attacks. It’s part of a study scheduled to begin in May that could help city officials understand what’s causing asthma attacks and help patients better manage the illness, which affects more than 100,000 people in the Louisville metro area.”
The article quotes Ted Smith, Louisville’s economic growth and innovation director:
“We are going from looking at survey data that is countywide, that is old and very retrospective — sort of diary-based reports that are not very reliable — to using a technology that has time and location stamps on every event with a rescue inhaler.”
But also of great interest was the high-tech instrument itself called Asthmapolis, developed by a Madison, Wisconsin company, which uses a sensor on emergency inhalers. “When people use the inhaler, the sensor works with the patient’s cellphone to transmit the time of the attack to the company’s computer network. The patient’s cellphone, if it’s equipped with global-positioning software, also will send the location…”
Fans of this website will recognize Asthmapolis as the creation of David Van Sickle, PhD, who described it in a guest editorial for us in November of 2010. We reached out to Van Sickle at the time because we saw that his invention presented the possibility of better assessing the extent of the asthma epidemic. Because of better data collection, asthma was newly shown to be as widespread a problem in rural areas as in cities, but harder to study because of distance from academic centers. Congratulations to Van Sickle and his colleagues for the progress they are making in changing the way asthma is studied.
On a further note, I am looking forward to seeing how the data correlates with air quality in the Louisville area. Recently Drs. Ehrlich and Chiaramonte expressed annoyance over a statement given by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul on the floor of the US Senate in which he denied any connection between air pollution and asthma. “We have decreased pollution and rising incidence of asthma. Either they are inversely proportional or they are not related at all.” Kentucky is, of course, a major coal-mining state.
Photo from asthmapolis.com