While diabetes, cancer and heart disease grab the headlines and the lion’s share of grant funding, other major illnesses can fall off the map.
That’s why it’s encouraging to see that one tri-county health care organization has stepped up and earned a major federal grant to help thousands of patients manage a lesser known but highly impactful disease.
COPD, short for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is a scarring of the lungs that causes permanent impairment. It can be the result of asthma, untreated bronchitis or environmental factors such as exposure to hazardous chemicals.
The Ventura County Health Care Agency identified COPD as a disease where faster diagnosis and a more disciplined approach to management could dramatically improve the quality of life for some 10,000 residents of the county who suffer from the disease. In a highly competitive process, it won a three-year grant of $4.1 million from the Department of Health and Human Services to develop such a program. “It was an arduous task to get this,” said Health Care Agency Deputy Director Joan Araujo, who led the effort to develop the proposal. “There were many times more” groups that applied than received funding.
Under the plan, the county’s network of community clinics and specialists will begin to identify patients who will receive close management of the condition and hopefully a plan to manage the disease. In many cases, management of COPD through better physical conditioning, diet and avoiding activities that can trigger more serious symptoms can lead to longer and more productive lives.
For a government-run agency, VCHCA has proven to be a flexible organization that has developed some entrepreneurial talent when it comes to competing for grants and delivering services. The latest grant to improve COPD services is an example of that flexibility and entrepreneurial approach to health care.
Although the rest of the region won’t directly benefit from the grant, VCHCA will share the results of its treatment programs nationally with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, which is administering the program.