January 11, 2022

Dr. MacDonell secures NIH grant to develop mobile intervention for young Black adults with asthma

A Wayne State University School of Medicine researcher has secured a $2.5 million grant to develop an effective mobile management intervention program to improve asthma control in young Black American adults.

Karen MacDonell, Ph.D., associate professor of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences, will use the National Institutes of Health R01 grant to support “Asthma and technology in emerging African American adults – the ATHENA Project.”

Karen MacDonell, Ph.D.

Asthma causes substantial health effects and death in the United States, with particularly higher rates among Black emerging adults ages 18 to 29. While intensive, face-to-face interventions are often difficult to implement in the targeted population, interventions that provide education and address underlying motivation for managing asthma may be the most effective means to ensure adherence to medical prescriptions and to reduce chronic asthma attacks that can lead to death.

The purpose of the ATHENA Project is to develop an effective mobile asthma management intervention – one that includes physical activity -- to improve asthma control in young Black adults.

The research team will assess the ability of a number of technological components to assist and improve traditional asthma education among Black Americans between the ages of 18 and 30. Those components include:

• The Motivational Enhancement System for Asthma Management, a mobile four-session intervention utilizing supported self-regulation and motivational interviewing, provides personalized content based on each participant’s activity level, daily experiences and goals.

• Supportive accountability will be administered by nurses utilizing targeted mobile support, including Skype and phone calls, to provide education, promote self-efficacy and overcome barriers through a motivational-based framework.

• Text messaging to study participants will provide reminders about asthma education, medication adherence and physical activity.

• Participants will employ wearable technology to track physical activity to help meet user-defined physical activity goals.

The team will evaluate the components and combination of the approaches to identify the most effective methods to develop an innovative, cost-effective and efficient program defined by results represented by a clinically significant improvement in asthma control.

The experimental design, Dr. MacDonell said, is equivalent to conducting multiple pilot randomized clinical trials to evaluate the efficacy of each component by employing only a fraction of the sample size and resources.

“At the completion of the study, we will have an empirically-supported, optimized mobile asthma management intervention to improve asthma control for African American emerging adults,” she said.

Participants will be recruited from multiple sites of the American Lung Association Airway Clinical Research Center network and ambulatory care clinics at the Detroit Medical Center. Investigators will collect data at three, six and 12 months of the program.

“We hypothesize that post-intervention, participants with uncontrolled asthma will show clinically-significant improvement in asthma control,” Dr. MacDonell said. “We hypothesize that improvements in asthma management behaviors (including physical activity), quality of life, symptoms, adherence and exacerbations will also be observed.”

Dr. MacDonell’s co-principal investigator is Alan Baptist, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of Internal Medicine and of Health Behavior and Health Education at the University of Michigan. Other members of the team include Samiran Ghosh, Ph.D., professor; April Carcone, Ph.D., associate professor; Angela Tiura, Ph.D., assistant professor, all of the WSU Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences; and Wanda Gibson-Scipio, Ph.D., FNP-BC, FAANP, ATSF, associate professor at the WSU College of Nursing.

The five-year NIH grant (1R01NR019566) totals  $2,507,578.

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