The Head-off Environmental Asthma in Louisiana (HEAL) Project is a collaborative research project conducted by the Tulane University Health Sciences Center and the New Orleans Department of Health. The purpose of the project is to learn about the effects of mold and other indoor allergens on children with asthma in post-Katrina New Orleans. Another goal of the HEAL Project is to look at inherited differences in childrens response to mold and indoor allergens. The project is funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD), the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH), and the Merck Childhood Asthma Network, Inc. (MCAN). NIEHS and NCMHD are part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Childhood asthma is on the rise in the United States, especially among minority inner-city children. Up to 24 percent of minority children living in cities like New Orleans may have asthma. Asthma is the number one reason children miss school due to chronic illness, and the second leading cause of childrens emergency department visits. The rapidly increasing rates of asthma are thought to be related in part to increases in allergies and environmental exposures, such as mold, moisture and other allergens. Another factor that worsens asthma is the lack of access to health care. In New Orleans and in many other cities, both poor access to health care and environmental exposures to mold and allergens are likely to contribute to asthma at the same time. The post-Katrina New Orleans environment presents an opportunity to determine ways to promote better medical management and safer home environments in an effort to improve the health of local children with asthma.