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Data-Driven Approach to Asthma Shows Promise in Louisville

July 31, 2017
by David Raths
| Reprints
Use of smart connected inhalers contributes to 82 percent reduction in rescue inhaler use

The city of Louisville, Ky., which has one of the highest asthma rates in the United States, recently wrapped up a community program called AIR Louisville that used smart connected inhalers.

The program leveraged Propeller Health’s FDA-cleared medication inhaler sensors that tracked when, where and how often Louisville residents experienced asthma symptoms. These data, along with Propeller Health's personalized asthma management system, helped patients to better manage their asthma symptoms, and aided city leaders in making smarter decisions about how to keep the air clean.

Over a two-year period, the program enrolled more than 1,147 participants, collected more than 570 patient years of data, 251,000 medication “puffs,” and more than 5.4 million environmental data points. The data were matched with environmental conditions including nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, ozone, sulfur dioxide, pollen levels, temperature, humidity, and wind speed to identify the most significant triggers of asthma and COPD in the Louisville area.

Participants saw an 82 percent reduction in asthma rescue inhaler use, 29 percent improvement in the number of people gaining control of their asthma, twice the number of symptom-free days, and 14 percent increase in nights without symptoms.

The program, which was funded by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson with additional financial support from the Midland States chapter of the American Lung Association, involved collaboration between Propeller Health, Louisville Metro's Office of Civic Innovation and the Institute for Healthy Air Water and Soil. 

 "A key part of Propeller's mission is to better understand patterns of respiratory disease through individual and community data," said David Van Sickle, CEO of Propeller Health, in a prepared statement. "Our collaboration with AIR Louisville has provided an important opportunity to put the data we're collecting to work to help improve people's lives with asthma and COPD, to improve public health for the community of Louisville, and to move the conversation towards prevention of respiratory disease. We're excited to expand this work in other cities globally."

The project's findings identify potential gaps between federal limits on air pollution and the air quality needed to protect human health. In 2015, the ozone standard was lowered to 70 parts per billion (ppb). Analysis of the AIR Louisville data suggests that a limit of 65 ppb would be more appropriate, based on the impact this pollutant has as a trigger for asthma. Analysis of these data shows that asthma attacks and healthcare costs both increase when pollution levels reach even moderately unhealthy levels.

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