Erin Elfeldt

Erin Elfeldt of Albany has a passion for public health.  It’s that passion that led her to pursue a Master’s degree in Public Health and dedicate herself to improving community-based healthcare in the region through her work with the Pediatric Asthma Coalition of the Capital Region (PACCR).  Under the guidance of its lead agency, Whitney M. Young, Jr. Health Services, PACCR works to decrease asthma morbidity and mortality in Capital Region children, ages 1-17, with poor socio-economic status.  

As Whitney Young’s Director of Community-Based Programs, Erin was troubled by the above average rates of asthma in some of the City of Albany’s elementary schools.   Uncontrolled asthma can be life threatening.  It’s also a leading cause of school absenteeism nationally and locally, as was highlighted in a recent Times Union story. Knowing that asthma outcomes can be greatly improved with awareness and education, Erin is making it her personal mission to bring that education to the City of Albany.

“I know that when it comes to chronic diseases, self-management is critical to improving patients’ health and their quality of life and that’s particularly true with pediatric asthma,” said Erin, who first became familiar with the Lung Association’s work with the grassroots asthma coalitions and the success of its Open Airways For Schools Program while working at the State Department of Health. “By bringing Open Airways For Schools to Albany we have the opportunity to positively impact asthma rates.”

After initially reaching out the Lung Association, Erin helped build a unique partnership with Hudson Valley Community College’s Respiratory Therapy program  within the college’s School of Health Sciences.  This past March, a certified Lung Association OAS facilitator came to Hudson Valley to train several OAS facilitators, many of whom were faculty and students within the school’s Respiratory Therapy program.   The college’s commitment to OAS will ensure the region has steady supply of OAS-certified instructors making the program sustainable. 

To date, Open Airways For Schools has been delivered in two Albany City elementary schools, Arbor Hill and New Scotland Elementary, with plans for further expansion to more schools next year.

Erin was instrumental in bringing OAS to the Capital District. Without her efforts, it’s unlikely that this program would have gotten off the ground.  

The Lung Association is very excited to have our award-winning program piloted in Albany schools and we expect to see the great results we’ve seen elsewhere in the state. Erin also has high hopes for Open Airways For Schools.  “It’s a lot of work but the end result—healthier children who know how to manage their asthma, is well worth the effort.  It’s a goal we’re committed to.”

To learn more about the Open Airways For Schools program, click here.