Equitable Care

Advancing Equity in Allergy and Asthma Research and Care

Allergies and asthma are disorders that disproportionately affect minority populations. Our researchers are exploring how the environment affects immune responses, how disparities in income and resources influence health outcomes and how to develop solutions that improve children’s lives.

We are committed to advancing equitable research into diagnoses and treatments to ensure children everywhere benefit from our findings.

A Community Focus

For two decades, Dr. Wanda Phipatanakul has worked with urban schools to understand risk factors present in the classrooms and homes of children with allergies and asthma—environments often filled with pests, mold, traffic-related pollutants and other allergens.

Dr. Phipatanakul and her team provide allergy and home sleep assessments, using their findings to advocate for classroom HEPA air purifiers and pest management plans—strategies proven to be as effective as medicine for treating asthma and allergies.

In novel research, they also are exploring how school policies affect food exposure in schools and whether those policies, such as isolating kids at a “nut-free” table at lunch, affect rates of bullying and a child’s psychosocial well-being. Results may lead to future clinical trials aimed at preventing exposure and reducing allergic reactions, while also minimizing emotional distress.

smiling couple embracing

Our lab is very community-based, and I collaborate with basic scientists on the underpinnings of these issues, but I’m also an interventionist. I don’t just identify problems; I find ways to solve them. Wanda Phipatanakul, MD, MS

Preventing the “Allergy March”

In recent years, overlaps between food allergy, asthma, atopic dermatitis and other immune responses to environmental triggers have become increasingly clear. Our researchers are on the front lines of this work, gaining new insights through collaborations at Boston Children’s and beyond.

For example, Dr. Phipatanakul’s team is advancing our understanding of the molecular pathways that lead to various allergic reactions—the so-called allergic march. They are motivated by the growing body of evidence suggesting that targeting one—such as an allergy to food—might reduce the risk of all future reactions.

As part of this work, they are investigating a therapy that may prevent and stop the allergy march in high-risk toddlers who are beginning to show allergic responses. Early results indicate that treatment while the immune system is still developing could dramatically reduce—and possibly end—allergic reactions. 

Personalized Medicine

Dr. Phipatanakul is carrying out cutting-edge translational research, exploring novel genetic pathways and mechanisms more prevalent in urban individuals of color and using these findings to develop personalized therapies.

For example, her lab discovered a specific genotype more common in children of color in lower socioeconomic environments that is associated with severe asthma and atopic dermatitis. Dr. Phipatanakul is testing how patients with this genotype respond to a therapy currently used to treat asthma and atopic dermatitis, dupilumab (Dupixent®).

Dr. Phipatanakul also uses her research findings to advocate within the community and at the policy level to ensure that all children, particularly those most at risk for allergies and asthma, can access transformative research and therapies that allow them to thrive

Related Research

Can Asthma be Nipped in the Bud? - https://answers.childrenshospital.org/asthma-prevention-xolair/

Trial for Severe Asthma Targets a Mutation Common in Children of Color - https://answers.childrenshospital.org/duplimab-asthma/

Acetaminophen Does Not Aggravate Young Children’s Asthma - https://answers.childrenshospital.org/acetaminophen-doesnt-aggravate-young-kids-asthma/

Racial differences in response to asthma therapies, and other AsthmaNet lessons - https://answers.childrenshospital.org/asthma-racial-differences-asthmanet/