The Breathmobile program: a good investment for underserved children with asthma

Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2010 Oct;105(4):274-281. doi: 10.1016/j.anai.2010.07.012.


Background: The Breathmobile, a specialty-based mobile asthma clinic, provides free care to underserved children. The cost of symptom-free day (SFD) improvement in this population has not been previously reported.

Objective: To examine the clinical impact and cost-effectiveness of the Baltimore Breathmobile.

Methods: Existing computerized data were analyzed for Breathmobile patient visits between 2002 and 2007. All SFDs were calculated, and direct medical cost savings attributable to decreased emergency department visits and hospitalizations (after program utilization vs the previous year) were compared with annual operating costs. Incremental cost-effectiveness ratios were determined by calculating the incremental costs of Breathmobile care per additional SFD gained per child per year.

Results: The analysis included 255 patients enrolled in the program for at least 1 year. Most participants were black (93.3%), and 54.9% were male. At baseline, patients reported a mean (SD) of 199 (118) SFDs in the year before enrollment. After 1 year in the program, patients had a mean (SD) improvement of 44 (9) SFDs. The program resulted in overall cost savings of $79.43 per SFD gained, with greater cost savings for children aged 5 to 11 years (-$116.84 per SFD gained) and those with intermittent asthma (-$126.71 per SFD gained).

Conclusions: The Baltimore Breathmobile program has demonstrated significant improvement in SFDs, with direct medical cost savings of the program outweighing the operational costs. These data support the need to continue to sustain and expand Breathmobile programs for children at high risk for asthma exacerbations and to conduct a randomized clinical trial to estimate the cost-effectiveness of the Breathmobile.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care / economics
  • Asthma / economics*
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Black or African American*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis*
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Emergency Medical Services / economics
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mobile Health Units*
  • Program Evaluation