Asthma is the most common chronic disease in children. In 2002 alone, it accounted for more than 20,000 emergency visits by children to New York City's public hospitals. Researchers have developed a handheld computer, known as the "Asthma Buddy," to help young patients manage their condition and communicate with doctors and nurses. During a six-month trial that involved 69 patients ages 8 to 16 at Coney Island Hospital, none of the children were admitted to the hospital and only one came to the emergency room. Before using the Asthma Buddy, the group as a whole had an average of 2.4 emergency room visits per month and one hospitalization every seven weeks. Researchers are now hoping to see if the improvements in Coney Island can be replicated in other parts of the city. Under the direction of Arnold Saperstein, M.D., medical director of MetroPlus Health Plan, the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation's managed care plan, Asthma Buddy will be tested with 200 patients at five hospitals, including a new group of patients at Coney Island Hospital. The trial is being supported by The Commonwealth Fund. For more information, contact Arnold Saperstein, medical director of MetroPlus Health Plan.