Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois and American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest Program Lowers Hospitalizations, ER Visits

Community-based initiative focused on improving pediatric asthma care extended for two more years

Feb 25, 2016, 12:27 ET from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois

CHICAGO, Feb. 25, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) and the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest today announced a two-year extension of the "Enhancing Care for Children with Asthma" project. Initial results from 16 clinic locations in Illinois that participated during the first two years of the program revealed a 60 percent decrease in hospitalizations, and emergency department visits reduced by 53 percent for the same population[1].

The project, initially launched in 2012, aims to help improve pediatric asthma care for high-risk patients through community-based interventions at primary health centers, including physician offices, federally qualified community health centers and school-based clinics. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 1.2 million Illinois adults, or 12.5 percent of the population, have ever been diagnosed with asthma[2]. Of all Illinois children, 13 percent have been diagnosed with asthma, 1 percent higher than the national rate[3].

Opella Ernest, MD, senior vice president and chief medical officer for BCBSIL said, "BCBSIL reviewed its claims data to identify the Illinois providers representing areas with the highest rates of hospitalizations and emergency-related visits for children with asthma. Teaming up with the American Lung Association in Illinois to recruit primary care clinics was then a logical choice to try to make a difference for these kids. The American Lung Association signed up the clinics to participate in year-long training cohorts based on National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute guidelines to enhance asthma treatment for children."

Through BCBSIL's funding, participating clinics receive monthly training and mentoring, which directly impacts children, their caregivers, community leaders and educators. The initiative not only aims to reduce ER visits and hospitalizations among those children who are Blue Cross card members, but all children being seen at participating clinics benefit from the training and best practices being introduced through this program.

"What continues to make this quality improvement initiative with BCBSIL invaluable is we have not only reduced emergency department visits and hospitalizations among those children in participating clinics, but it has provided participating clinics with technical assistance and resources that may have unfortunately been out of their reach," said Felicia Fuller, Dr.PH, director, lung health, community health services, American Lung Association in Greater Chicago. "This partnership has helped hundreds of children in Illinois with controlling their asthma so they can do everyday activities like sleep all night, go to school, and play sports. It has also made a positive impact on their parents, providing additional education and resources, allowing them to miss fewer days of work and improving their quality of life and peace of mind."

Two-year Expansion Builds on Momentum
Based on the positive initial results, BCBSIL and the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest will expand the program for an additional two years with components that include:

  • Continuation of the initiative in Illinois, with a goal to team up with at least 10 new primary care clinics over the next two years.
  • Implementation of the proven Environmental Improvements for Children's Asthma (EICA) program to remove the allergens and irritants in the home environment of children with poorly controlled asthma. BCBSIL and the American Lung Association will identify children who continue to have hospitalizations and emergency visits, and the American Lung Association will conduct home visits to determine whether there are environmental triggers in the home preventing them from responding to improved quality of care. 

The Enhancing Care for Children with Asthma program was developed as part of Health Care Service Corporation's (HCSC's) Healthy Kids, Healthy Families initiative, a community investment program committed to the health and well-being of children and families across Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.  HCSC is the parent company of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois. Since the initiative began in 2011, HCSC has granted more than $37 million to 300-plus community partners across the five states it serves. To date, more than 19 million health and wellness services have been provided to children and their families as a result of investments in non-profit organizations. Through such support, its goal is to offer sustainable, measurable programs in the areas of nutrition, physical activity, disease prevention and management, and supporting safe environments. The American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest is a core group within the initiative's disease management pillar.   

About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois
With 8.1 million members, BCBSIL, a division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company, is the largest health insurer in Illinois.  Begun in 1936 in Chicago, BCBSIL remains member owned rather than publicly traded, and is committed to promoting the health and wellness of its members and its communities, fostering greater access to care, and working to lower the overall cost of care while improving care quality and patient outcomes. For more information, visit:

About The American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest
The American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest is comprised of Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. Our mission is to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. Our staff, leadership boards and volunteers are dedicated to "Fighting for Air" through research, education and advocacy, which we're able to fund through special event fundraising, grants and the generosity of our donors. For more information about the American Lung Association or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or visit

[1] Based on assessment of claims data from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois members receiving asthma care at least once from 16 participating clinic locations and who were continuously enrolled from one year before the project to 12 months post intervention (3 years of continuous enrollment).
[2] "2012 Adult Asthma Data: Prevalence Tables and Maps." BRFSS 2012. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012. Web. 1 July 2014. <>.
[3] "2010 Child Asthma Data: Prevalence Tables." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 Nov. 2011. Web. 30 July 2013.


SOURCE Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois