Rural asthma study launches in Midwest

New technology tracks where, when attacks occur
Regional—This week, Madison-based Reciprocal Sciences, with funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is launching a new study to learn more about the problem of rural asthma in the Midwest. The study follows a recent report by the CDC that rates of asthma in rural areas have been underestimated.

“Our analyses of national survey data suggest that asthma is as prevalent in rural areas as in urban areas,” said Teresa Morrison, medical epidemiologist in the Air Pollution and Respiratory Health Branch at CDC. “Our goal is to document patterns of asthma symptoms among rural residents in Midwestern states, and learn more about possible environmental exposures that potentially lead to asthma attacks.”

In the past, studies have relied on interviews and questionnaires to collect data on asthma. But now, volunteers who live in rural areas in the Midwest will be able to record their symptoms when and where they happen, using an innovative tool that Reciprocal Sciences unveiled last year. The device, called the Spiroscout, is a GPS-enabled inhaler that pinpoints the exact geographic location and time when the inhaler is used.

“For the first time, scientists will have definitive information about exactly where and when rural residents have symptoms,” said study director David Van Sickle, PhD, “and we can use that to identify important patterns in the disease.”

Participants in the six-month study will also be testing additional asthma management tools developed by Reciprocal Sciences, including a text messaging system designed to help people with asthma remember to take their daily medication.

Participation in the study is limited to 150 participants. Interested individuals can call (608) 554-0750, e-mail info@reciprocalsciences.com, or visit the website at ruralasthma.net for more information.