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Patient Stories

Patient Stories

Celebrating Spectrum Health Patients
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Solutions for a Healthier Community
Mariah Walker

What happens when our children can’t afford to breathe?

Mariah Walker’s uncontrolled asthma made her life miserable. The 10-year-old Grand Rapids girl often struggled to breathe. Frequent asthma attacks forced Mariah to miss 25 days of school last year, and she made 15 emergency room visits. The worst times were in the winter. Breathing the cold air made Mariah's chest hurt when she and her mom walked to catch the bus to Helen DeVos Children's Hospital for treatment.

A new program in Kent County is helping children like Mariah breathe easier. Thanks to CHAP (the Children's Healthcare Access Program), Mariah and the 15,000 other children now have a better quality of life. Visits to the emergency room have declined by about 10 percent, and fewer children are being hospitalized for asthma attacks.

The Vision

CHAP is a partnership of Spectrum Health, Priority Health, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, First Steps Kent County, Cherry Street Health Services, Asthma Network of West Michigan and several community-based pediatric practices. First Steps also receives support from the Frey Foundation, Steelcase Foundation, Heart of West Michigan United Way, W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Early Childhood Investment Corporation.

The Program

In August 2008, First Steps began a one-year pilot program of CHAP, based on similar programs in Colorado and North Carolina. Priority Health provided a $500,000 grant to community pediatric primary care offices to open up for additional hours to see more patients enrolled in its Medicaid program.

The Results

Mariah’s asthma is now under control for the first time in years. She was able to keep up her attendance at school, thanks to regular visits to her primary care doctor. An asthma educator helped Mariah and her family reduce the conditions that triggered Mariah’s asthma and taught them how to manage her multiple medications. Mariah attended the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Asthma Camp this summer and is celebrating her improving health.

To learn more about how the CHAP partnership is helping 15,000 children like Mariah, visit First Steps—or visit Priority Health and Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, both of which are members of Spectrum Health.


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