We can all breathe a little easier knowing that our school district won the 2011 Achievements in Respiratory or "AIR" Health Award from California Breathing for implementing strategies making our school environments healthier for students and staff with asthma.
To be eligible for the award, schools districts must have instituted air quality improvement efforts that address asthma-causing cleaning supplies, pesticide use, classroom pets, and maintenance problems. Additionally, the districts must have demonstrated enforcement of state regulations reducing bus idling near schools, and banning smoking on school property. Each school district will receive a monetary prize of $5000, a trophy and acknowledgement in the press. The funds are provided through a federal grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Since the 1990’s, when a high incidence of asthma was recognized, the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) and community partners have been working together to improve school asthma management. Following the implementation of asthma self-management education, schools have experienced a significant reduction in the incidence of asthma episodes.
• Nearly 7.1 million (9.4%) children in the United States have asthma
• Asthma is the most common chronic disease of childhood
19.4% of children (0-17) in San Francisco County have asthma
35.1% of children (5-17) in San Francisco County have been to the Emergency Room due to asthma, and 72.2% of children (0-4) have been seen in the ER due to asthma
In S.F. County, a hospital stay due to asthma cost approx. $20,621
• Asthma is a leading cause of school absences due to chronic illness and interferes with daily activities, including attending school and going to work:
In the U.S., 15 million school days were missed due to asthma, and 11.8 million work days were missed due to asthma after one asthma episode
A child with asthma misses about 16 school days/year
The following educational programs are taught on a voluntary basis by health care professionals and dedicated laypersons that have been trained in the appropriate curriculum.
The first step in implementing any asthma education program at your school site is to identify the students with asthma; then talk with the site administrator, school nurse, Health Advocate/Liaison, and the Asthma Education Coordinator for assistance.
Open Airways for Schools (OAS) is an asthma management program of the American Lung Association to help children with asthma in all SFUSD elementary schools. The program's unique school-based approach offers an opportunity to provide asthma education to all children with asthma, including children who do not regularly access health care.
The purpose of Open Airways for Schools is:
- to empower children with asthma by teaching them to prevent asthma episodes and
- to help schools control asthma by creating partnerships in asthma care with
school personnel, health care providers, and families
To accompany Open Airways for Schools classes, an in-service on asthma is offered to school faculty. The in-service provides a basic overview of asthma and suggestions on how to create a safe, healthy and supportive school environment for children with asthma.
Kickin’ Asthma is another asthma management program of the American Lung Association focusing on the needs of students with asthma in the middle and high schools. It empowers teens and preteens to take more control of their asthma so they can move into adulthood with the skills they need to manage their symptoms and live well.
The goals of Kickin’ Asthma are:
- To teach students to take responsibility for managing the disease
- To take early action to prevent serious asthma episodes
The Power Breathing Program was developed by a team of health professionals and the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) and provides a basic understanding of asthma and its management in a peer-friendly environment. It empowers and motivates adolescents, ages 11-19, to take control of their asthma on a personal level.
Through the Power Breathing Program, students learn "they have the power" to control their asthma and not allow asthma to control them!
The goals of Power Breathing Program are:
- Students will have a basic understanding of asthma and management skills
- Develop constructive coping strategies to address concerns, fears and barriers in asthma management.
- Use new communication skills in working with their asthma management team.
Tools for Schools is a collaborative, common-sense program designed to give all SFUSD sites the information and tools they need to improve indoor air quality in a low/no-cost, practical manner. The program was developed by the Environmental Protection Agency. This practical tool encourages staff and families to work together to make schools healthy places for students and staff.
Benefits of Tools for Schools:
- Identifies, solves and prevents indoor air quality issues in the school environment
- Lowers risk of exposure to asthma triggers
- Reduces absenteeism and improves performance
School Sites interested in implementing Tools for Schools (TfS) Program would first identify a Tools for Schools (TfS) Site Liaison who would assist the site in preventing and solving common indoor air quality problems using the Tools for Schools Action Kit. This person would be trained to develop and implement a TfS Action Plan. The TfS Liaison would also work closely with the district TfS Coordinator to prioritize and submit work orders to Facilities. The TfS District Coordinator works with the school site to help the school initiate changes.