In Detroit, black teens with asthma went from staying at home to avoid bullying and embarrassment to carefully managing their problem with the help of a hip radio disc jockey named Puff Man.Black teens have a much higher rate of asthma than whites, and yet there weren't really any programs targeting that population, Detroit's Henry Ford Health System found. So they set about developing a computer program to address the problem, with help from other local institutions, including the University of Michigan. But rather than using some stuffy voice spitting medical jargon at inattentive teens, they gave it an urban vibe and a narrator who spoke their language.
We still have a lot of children who are experiencing asthma episodes, but it did make a huge dent in helping us get those kids under control."Puff City participants start by logging into a computer at home or school for a baseline session, followed by four more visits every week, and then a follow-up six months later.


In each visit, Puff Man and other characters ask questions about the user's asthma and try to tailor the message to each participant, sort of like a personalized talk show. And statistics after the first year and a half show that teens who used the specialized software vs.
And those overseeing it wonder whether such a technology-based approach could help to manage other diseases such as HIV or diabetes, especially ones that affect young people, whose brains are wired to think through technology, says Nancy Schlichting, CEO of Henry Ford Health System."Clearly, the country is dealing with these same issues. The problem is not unique to Detroit, and I think in many cases the solutions are replicable," she says.





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