Childhood asthma is a serious issue in underprivileged neighborhoods in Chicago, occurring at an estimated two to three times the rate of the rest of the U.S. 

Our student team was tasked with understanding how asthma affects children in this community and developing solutions for care and management of the condition.


Through primary research, secondary research, and prototyping  the team developed Radius, a mobile phone app that enables experienced asthma caregivers (those individuals who have taken care of children who have suffered from asthma) to act as extensions of the hospital system. We accomplished this through use of persuasive design techniques and leveraging of existing resources within the city.


Analysis & Synthesis
User Experience Design

Aaron Wolf
Ge Cao
Veerapriya V.
Joanna Vodopivec

Tom MacTavish




In performing our research, we first found it important to understand the general numbers surrounding the problem to get a sense of the scope.

What we found was staggering in that there are roughly thirty Community Health Workers (CHWs) in the entire city dedicated to serving 130,000 asthmatic children. A CHW's role is to meet with an asthmatic child and caregiver six times over the course of a year (in their home) to go over triggers, ways to cope with the disease, how to deal with emergencies, and how to use daily medicine.



primary research

After interviewing many CHWs (and even shadowing them into the homes of caregivers and holding workshops), we were able to identify pain points and opportunities within the communities. While each stakeholder had their own sets of problems they also had different skill sets and access to communication channels that could be leveraged. Below are some highlights of what different CHWs had to say about their current ability to serve asthmatic children and what these children had to deal with.

CHWs voice some of their thoughts to us in interviews and in workshops

CHWs voice some of their thoughts to us in interviews and in workshops


The communication breakdown due to CHW constraints

Anlaysis & snythesis

What the CHWs said

We decided to take a closer look at the aspects of a community health worker to understand their qualities, responsibilities, etc. Since they were the most effective (and cost effective) means of controlling asthma within these communities, we wondered if it might be possible to transfer responsibility to non-CHWs in the community. In essence, we wanted to see if it might be possible to create "junior" CHWs through experienced caregivers within the community.

The reasoning behind this decision was that there simply were not enough CHWs to speak with schools, go to homes, talk to medical professionals, etc. There would need to be thousands more CHWs just in the Chicago area to do the work necessary. Not only that, there is not enough money to pay for these CHWs.

In speaking with CHWs we found all of the aspects of their jobs and mapped them onto experienced caregivers. Experienced caregivers have the years of training of dealing with emergencies and teaching their children how to deal with the complications, however, they are limited by the resources that they are given and their reach. 

We used this diagram as our design criteria. The solution had to enable experienced caregivers in this way as well as creating new communication channels for CHWs to reach greater numbers of people.



Our solution was called Radius, a platform for enabling experienced caregivers (those who had taken care of asthmatic children) to become mentors to other caregivers of children with asthma. In our research, we found that while most people did not have easy access to health care or CHWs, they did have internet access and smartphones. This platform would allow for easier connections to be made within the communities . This solution would certainly not take the place of CHWs, but rather enhance their capabilities. 

This is the app component to our solution. CHW screens are denoted by blue, mentors are in orange, and new caregivers are in green.


the new experience

Instead of having caregivers repeat the emergency room experience again and again, this new system would give mentors the information and support they need to effectively treat asthma. After a first emergency visit where asthma is diagnosed, a CHW will meet with the caregiver in their home. There, the CHW will introduce the caregiver to a mentor (who had taken care of an asthmatic child in the past). Later, the mentor can use tools on the platform to support them as they teach the new caregivers.

After a first emergency visit, CHWs will be notified that a family is in need of help.

A CHW will come to the caregivers home to establish report and to set up a mentor (experienced caregiver) for that new caregiver.

The mentors can then use the app to help caregivers understand what to do in order to best manage their child's needs.