David Van Sickle, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholar in the Department of Population Health Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is developing a GPS add-on for asthmatics' inhalers to map where and when environmental exposures cause asthma symptoms. When detected the device will alert users and encourage them to puff on the "rescue inhaler."
Van Sickle's objective is not simply to alert asthmatics when a cat or a patch of ragweed is around, he's also aiming to leverage global positioning technology to detect as yet unknown causes of asthma.
"Established risk factors for asthma do not explain its global prevalence patterns and time trends," says Van Sickle. "Studies of epidemic asthma have demonstrated that understanding the locations where asthma exacerbations occur can help identify important new exposures."
Past students of Van Sickle designed the first prototypes of the "asthmap" GPS device. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is currently funding an ongoing trial of the prototypes.