Cherokee use hand-held computer to monitor illness 4-5-07

CHEROKEE, North Carolina (AP) - Health officials with the Cherokee tribe are using hand-held computers designed for terrorism investigations to track asthma, a growing condition among tribe members.

Residents in 54 houses were surveyed this week by Cherokee Indian Hospital workers who used the devices to record information about mold, water drainage, smoking and pets inside the homes. The data will be used in a report due out in May. A federal grant of $30,000 is paying for the study.

The computers, on loan from state officials, usually would be used to track injuries during a terrorist attack.

``It is a really a cool technology,'' hospital spokeswoman Jody Adams said. ``My hope is they will find more uses for it. It will tell us what things in the community, and in that home, that we need to go back and look for.''

Asthma has become a serious concern in the tribe with about a third of its 9,000 members suffering from the condition. Asthma is a greater problem in western North Carolina, and officials suspect air pollution may be to blame. Older homes also could be adding to the problem, they said.

Betty Maney lives in a 30-year-old house with her three asthmatic granddaughters. Her home was built on a concrete slab with land sloping toward the foundation. Maney said she has complained about the problems and hopes the survey helps.

``I'd like to see some sort of action taken on it,'' Maney said.