Last week, several researchers from the American Lung Association’s Airways Clinical Research Centers (ACRC) Network shared a body of recent scientific findings at the American Thoracic Society’s ATS 2021 international conference.

Our ACRC team showcased five posters in all, each demonstrating varying facets of the program’s rich research in asthma and COPD. Several studies, touched upon the overlap between lung disease and mental health. While it is common for asthma and COPD patients to occasionally experience feelings of sadness, fear and worry, this topic is largely unexplored and generating increased interest in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Anne Dixon, M.D., director of pulmonary and critical care medicine at the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine, recognizes the need to include mental health in pulmonary patient care. “What we’re learning is that improved mental outlook has the capability to positively impact lung disease severity.”

Dr. Dixon, who also serves on the Lung Association’s Board of Directors and chairs our Scientific Advisory Committee, helped author a poster on The Differential Effect of Psychosocial and Cognitive Factors on Asthma Control in African Americans and Caucasians with Asthma. “There have been very few studies investigating how psychosocial and cognitive factors correlate with asthma. So, we set out to examine this link specifically as it affects Black American versus Caucasian patients who participated in four research clinic visits spanning a four-week period.”

The study included 541 participants, ages 15 years and older, with mild to moderate asthma. Knowledge, health care perceptions and self-efficacy related to asthma were assessed using the Knowledge, Attitude, and Self-Efficacy Asthma Questionnaire. Depression was assessed using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. Asthma control was assessed using the Juniper Asthma Control questionnaire.

“Previous research has shown that asthma disproportionately affects the Black American population,” continued Brittany Duchene, M.D., also at the University of Vermont. “Based on our study’s longitudinal statistical analysis, we concluded that depression is associated with poor asthma control. This gap was most evident in Black American participants. They had more improvements in lung function and asthma control over the course of the study, suggesting that the more support they received, the more their asthma symptoms improved.”

Noting the importance of regular clinical follow-up to improve asthma control and lung function in all populations but particularly Black Americans, Drs. Dixon and Duchene are eager to continue their scientific investigation.

The following ACRC studies were also featured during the conference poster sessions:

To learn more about our ACRC Network, a jewel in the crown of the Lung Association’s research program, visit: Lung.org/acrc.

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