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A Hip Way to Help Teens Cope with Asthma

Getting teens to take their asthma medicine can be a struggle. Reminders from mom and dad often go in one ear and out the other.

But what if those teen ears were plugged into a new MP3 media player and the person doing the reminding was rap star Ludacris or White Sox slugger Carl Everett?

That’s the concept behind a study now under way at Rush University Medical Center, headed by Giselle Mosnaim, MD, an asthma and immunology specialist.

“Teenagers with asthma are a very difficult group to reach,” she says. “It’s hard for them to admit they have a chronic disease.”

Mosnaim and others wondered if celebrities could change that mindset. They decided to give teens with asthma MP3 media players loaded with music, music videos, video games and special radio programs. Interspersed with these offerings are short, snappy messages from high-profile music stars and athletes reminding teens to take their asthma medicine or offering personal stories about living with asthma. Approximately 20 percent of the celebrities and athletes have asthma themselves.

The year-long study involves 40 Chicago-area youth, mostly African American, between the ages of 11 and 17.

Mosnaim says the study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, ties in to some troubling local statistics.

“Chicago has the worst asthma outcomes in the country,” she says. “And African Americans are among those with the highest rates of emergency room visits and hospitalizations.”

Getting teen asthma under control is an important step, which is where the MP3 study comes in.

“The MP3 player makes it cool,” Mosnaim says, “because you have all these celebrities and athletes who are saying, ‘I have asthma, too, but it hasn’t stopped me from being a rap artist, playing an instrument or playing sports.’”

Likewise, kids with asthma shouldn’t let their condition stop them from enjoying life, she says. “For the most part, as long as they control their asthma, they can do anything they want.”

For more information about this study, call (888) 352-RUSH (7874).

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