Any parent will tell you that keeping their children healthy is their number one priority. If your child needs an excellent pediatrician, please consider El Rio Health – elrio.org or 520-670-3909.
Emergency room visits and hospitalizations are a parent’s worst nightmare. No one likes the feeling of helplessness of not being able to soothe a child with a painful ear infection, or worse, a serious asthma attack. Ideally, parents want to avoid illnesses and emergencies all together, and the pediatric team at El Rio Health is committed to helping parents in the Tucson community to prevent medical emergencies and improve overall quality of life.
Led by Dr. Andrew Arthur, MD, the 31 pediatric providers at El Rio are on a mission to make the lives of 34,000 children as healthy, rich and meaningful as possible. By the end of the year, that team will grow to 35 providers at six sites.
Dr. Arthur strongly believes that the goal of the team at El Rio isn’t just to treat sick children. In summarizing his philosophy, he says, “We view success as a child’s ability to interact successfully at home. They should be able to participate in the activities that nurture their physical, emotional, intellectual and social development. Any time they’re blocked, they’re missing out on opportunities to achieve their true potential.”
Armed with this overarching purpose, the pediatricians and their staff provide care from birth through age 18. They specialize in well-child care, sick care, and chronic disease management. The health center performs screenings for growth and development at each visit, which is an important service because it’s been found that the results are linked to academic performance.
Regular screenings are an often-utilized preventive measure at El Rio. With the help of donors, El Rio purchased 14 new audiometers for screening for hearing loss in newborns. They continually check for a decrease in hearing ability throughout childhood. There are also vision screenings starting at 12 months.
Two of the conditions that Dr. Arthur’s team focuses on are ear infections and asthma. Since ear infections are painful and can lead to hearing loss in children, Dr. Arthur recommends a number of best practices, including breastfeeding, abstaining from sleeping with a bottle, and avoiding all contact with cigarette smoke.
Another tactic Dr. Arthur recommends is the use of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine and the influenza vaccine. In particular, the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine protects children from bacteria that cause infections like pneumonia and meningitis.
The reason there is so much emphasis on preventing ear infections is that in addition to an increased risk of hearing loss, they are also the number one reason for the prescription of antibiotics. While antibiotics are life saving for certain conditions, prescribing them too frequently can lead to antibiotic resistance, making it more difficult to treat future illnesses.
Another condition that is high on El Rio’s list of priorities is asthma. About 1 in 10 children in the Tucson area suffer from asthma, and it is the most serious disease in young children.
Dr. Arthur has found that the best way to improve outcomes in asthmatic patients is with parental education. He developed an asthma program based on a well-researched model called the Inner-City Asthma Intervention Study. Leading this program are two nationally certified asthma educators. They are licensed practitioner nurses (LPNs) that spend about two to three hours with each patient working on an intervention program.
Part of this time includes allergen skin testing to find the allergic triggers, pulmonary function testing to test the child’s lung function, and interactive and educational dialogue with the parents. Dr. Arthur emphasizes that the team cares deeply about the kids and parents, and the extra attention they give to their patients with these advanced asthma protocols has led to a 60-70% improvement in everything they measure.
So, what do they measure? El Rio takes a holistic approach in health and quality of life. Some of the indicators they measure are the number of days of missed school, play, and interrupted sleep, as well as the frequency of medication use.
What sets El Rio apart from other asthma programs is their implementation of a social learning theory developed by psychologist, Dr. Albert Bandura. It takes a unique approach in educating parents about how to care for asthmatic children, and help them resume a normal life. While other clinicians may just tell a parent what to do, the LPNs at El Rio build a bridge to the patient and the family. They genuinely care about the families they serve, and every participant in this program feels that connection.
The process starts by asking a lot of questions to find out how this person’s asthma affects their life. The LPNs ask about their home setting, their activities, how they use their medication, etc. They set a baseline by finding out how often the patient has gone to the hospital over the past several months and whether the condition is worsening, improving or remaining constant. The overarching message of this dialogue is, “we are about you.” The team is also bilingual, which is a huge benefit for the non-English speaking population.
During this discovery period, the team sometimes finds out that the prescription dosage wasn’t ideal, or there was an environmental trigger in the home or classroom that the parents weren’t even aware of. For example, if the results come back with an allergy to a certain type of pollen and the plant that produces it is prevalent in the patient’s yard, the family now has a concrete step they can take to start improving the condition.
The team sets a high expectation for the outcomes. While many parents simply want to keep their children out of the ER, El Rio Health wants these children to resume a normal and happy life. To learn more, please visit elrio.org.
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